Valencia girls hoops beats Hart to get back in win column

Valencia's Nicole Weatherman (34) and Hart's Laney Grider(4) fight for a loose ball at Hart on Friday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Valencia girls basketball was able to bounce back from Tuesday’s Foothill League opener loss on Tuesday with a 45-27 win over Hart on Friday night at Hart High School.

The reigning league champions lost to Saugus earlier in the week and returned to practice the next day with a new sense of focus. The result was a strong second half against the Indians, which helped them pull away with the win.

“We had two really great practices,” said senior Nicole Weatherman. “Just, you know, focus on the present and the future games. We worked really hard. We worked on some new things a bunch of energy and supporting each other.”

Hart’s Leila Uribe (23) and Valencia’s Marissa Howell (21) fight for a loose ball at Hart on Friday. Dan Watson/The Signal

The score was kept close in the first half. Hart’s Leila Uribe tied up the game at 6-all with a 3-pointer as two minutes remained on the clock. Forty seconds later, she sank two free throws to get the Indians the advantage.

The Vikings’ Mailey Ballard hit two free throws to tie the game again, but a putback from Evelin Herrera made sure that Hart (8-8 overall, 1-1 in Foothill League) held the lead at the end of the first quarter, 10-8.

“We were just able to move the ball a little bit better and … when we’re in rhythm we’re pretty decent shooting team,” said Hart coach Terra Palmer.

Ballard drained a 3-pointer at the start of the second quarter to get Valencia (11-7, 1-1) back in the lead, 11-10, then Leila Uribe made a three to force the lead to change hands again. The Vikings worked their way to a 15-13 lead, but Hart took over once more on a 3-pointer from Uribe with two minutes left in the frame.

“She’s fast, she’s physical, she’s strong, she’s a little bit mean and because of that we’re able to put pressure on people and better our situations defensively,” Palmer said of Uribe. “She’s always somebody that I can count. She’s not perfect but when she doesn’t make the right plays, she’s in a position to get back.”

Valencia was able to get the edge with a clutch three from Weatherman with 1:40 left before halftime and the Vikings carried an eventual 20-16 lead into halftime.

Valencia’s Mailey Ballard (2) drives past at Hart defender Emma Allen (5) at Hart on Friday. Dan Watson/The Signal

On the other side of the break, Valencia switched to man defense, which paid off. The Vikings only allowed two points in the third quarter while scoring 11 for themselves. The energy from freshman Peyton Motoyasu stood out to coach Kevin Honaker, but he was pleased with how the whole team turned the game around.

“She has the energy that kind of just pesters the guards and makes things hard on their life,” Honaker said of Motoyasu. “She helped a lot and I think everybody just stepped it up. Clearly we’re a better man-to-man defense than zone. So maybe that’s something we’ve learned now.”

Valencia had established a comfortable lead by the fourth quarter, but Weatherman’s shooting stayed consistent throughout the game. She scored 13 points in the game and sank three 3-pointers.

MORE: Vikings boys hoops hangs on against Saugus

Weatherman had transferred to Alemany for her junior year and took a year off of basketball, but is back playing for Valencia this season and attends school through Learning Post. Becoming re-oriented with the team’s systems has been made easier by the friendships she maintained with her teammates.

“Of course I want to play because I mean, they’re my family, so yeah,” she said. “As far as being the seniors, I mean, we’re like best friends. We’ve always been friends forever. We hang out a lot, anywhere outside of basketball and I think we have a pretty good connection on the court as well.”

Valencia next plays Oaks Christian on Saturday at the Sierra Canyon Shootout before resuming Foothill League play against West Ranch on Tuesday at 5 p.m. Hart plays Canyon at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

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