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Valley Christian unable to recover from poor shooting in first round loss

By Loren Kopff

VICTORVILLE-After winning one game last season, followed by a 25-game losing streak, Valley Christian head coach Ally Wade just wanted her team to be more consistent this season. That goal was achieved as well as another goal, which was to get to the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division IV-A playoffs.

Last Thursday night, the Lady Crusaders were in an uphill battle mode for the majority of the game which got away early in the fourth quarter when host University Prep went on an 8-1 run and eventually won 51-43.  V.C., which had trimmed its deficit to five points with 1:40 left in the third quarter, finishes the season at 11-16.

“University Prep did a really good job tonight,” Wade said. “They got to the rim and we weren’t able to slow them down. But going in, I didn’t know too much about them. I just knew a couple of things here and there. I knew how bad our girls wanted it. I thought we were going to get a win.”

The Lady Crusaders scored the first five points within the first 63 seconds of the game. But the Jaguars went on a 14-2 run the remainder of the stanza and never looked back. University Prep scored nine of its 27 first half points off of 14 V.C. turnovers, the last increasing the score to 21-12.

But V.C. made a charge to get back into the game and when junior Alex Fenderson got an offensive rebound and scored with 15.8 seconds left in the half, the Lady Crusaders were down by a point at 24-23. The visitors were still trailing by a point early in the third quarter but there was just too much of Renee Allums-D’Espyne and Stacia Porter, who combined to score 35 points in the game, including all 10 in the third quarter and all but four in the fourth quarter.

“It was definitely an uphill battle all game,” Wade said. “We just couldn’t get over that hump. Sometimes you can’t. You just hate to see it in a playoff game where it’s survive and advance.”

After junior Kate Vande Vegte scored to make it 35-30, the Lady Crusaders were held without a field goal for the next 6:41 when Vande Vegte knocked down consecutive baskets. In between, V.C. got just three free throws as it fell behind 47-32 with 3:41 left in the game.

Senior Amber Binford led V.C. with a dozen points, all from the charity stripe, while Vande Vegte came off the bench to add nine points. The Lady Crusaders shot 19 percent from the field but stayed in the game by connecting on 21 of 32 free throws. Senior Amanda Chamberlain grabbed 16 rebounds.

“They went down fighting,” Wade said. “Amber has done a great job for us all season being aggressive. She’s improved so much from when I came in last year and I’m excited to see where she’s going to end up next year. She wants to play [in college]. She has the work ethic and the attitude to go play at the next level.”

Wade added that one reason for the 10-victory turnaround this season was confidence from her players that they could win. V.C. graduates three seniors, the other being Makenna Mageo, and will have six returning seniors and two juniors for next season if they all come back.