Valley Heights Bears junior girls defence successfully 'denied the paint' Thursday afternoon against Simcoe CS Sabres.
But an air-tight zone defence couldn't stop Simcoe's rare long range three-pointers. Shian LaSalle, with a buzzer-beater late in the first half, and Tiara Catherwood in the fourth, made the difference in a low-scoring 19-6 Simcoe victory at VHSS in Norfolk (NSSAA) junior basketball.
“Compared to our Waterford game, it seemed like defensively they just weren't as into it,” said Valley Heights coach Sam Armstrong. “Against Waterford they had a lot more pressure. It seemed like they were a lot smarter with their rotations.
“That second three-pointer took a lot out of us because we're so used to playing so close to the key, trying to defend the paint. No layups, that's our mentality. The two threes really killed us.”
“Zone is the defence we work on most,” said Bears' Julia Knelsen, a wing and occasional post, noting the Bears try to play all positions with the exception of point guard, which belongs to Chelsey King and Emily Thompson.
“If they can't get any shots, we can win,” said Knelsen. “We try to pressure them into shooting from the outside – it's a lesser chance they're going to get it in from that far back.”
The next step, she said, will be pressuring outside shooters while maintaining the integrity of the zone.
“That's what my coach was just telling me, if I want to get that person 'out there,' we talk to each other. I would go out there and we would switch - another person would cover for me.”
The Bears also have a man-to-man variation, but Knelsen said that defence is used only when game situations call for it.
“Just depending how the game is going. If there's one really strong player, we'll usually play man-to-man with that person, then we have the four defensive (zone) modes. In the end we tried to go more man-to-man because we realized they were getting those longer shots.”
They also press, and in the early stages Thursday applied a half-court.
“Full-court works a lot better for our team, so we've been doing that a lot lately and I think we're going to stick with that.”
Defensively, the plan seemed to be working. Neither team was in double digits at half-time. Offensively, however, the junior Bears still have some work to do.
“I feel like we've been working on defence a lot more than offence,” said Knelsen. “We're starting to (work on offence), but we wanted to work on defence first. If they can't get shots in, we've just got to hold them there.”
“We're going to work on our plays and shot selection,” said Armstrong. “Just working on being smarter offensively. Our plays seem to work, it's just a matter of running them.”
With better outside shooting, said Knelsen, and making more of pressure layups, the Bears should start knocking down more points.
“Those are 'in the moment' things,” she said, recalling some missed running layups. “We can do those easily in practice, but once you've got all that pressure on you and all girls following you...”
After four games, the junior Bears are 1-3 in the Norfolk basketball standings. They're already looking forward to a rematch with the Sabres.
“I think we just need to be more pumped up and more confident in ourselves,” said Knelsen. “And I think we just need to work on our shooting a bit.”
“Our main goal is to reach CWOSSA, essentially,” said Valley Heights coach Jennifer Janzen.
Junior VHSS scoring: Alison Stark 2, Emily Thompson 2, Julia Knelsen 2
In the senior girls basketball game, Simcoe defeated a short-handed Valley Heights crew 40-11. The Sabres scored bulk of their points in the second and fourth quarters.
Senior VHSS scoring: Teagan Fitch 4, Kristen Fros 2, Shandi Pace 2, Shanaya Armstrong 1, Deanna Inthout 2