Valencia girls basketball started strong, but slipped behind and ultimately fell, 57-35, against Orangewood Academy on the road on Saturday night.
“We got off to a great start,” said Valencia head coach Kevin Honaker via phone call. “First quarter was great. Unfortunately, the next three quarters we succumbed to the pressure of their defense. We didn’t react well to that.”
The Vikings came out quick, riding the momentum of a big win in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Ford Girls Basketball Division 2AA Championships. However, Orangewood was able to use its size and speed to bully Valencia in the final three quarters.
“I think we played calm and collective,” Honaker said. “We worked what we’ve been practicing pretty well. We made good decisions with the basketball. Overtime their size speed and athleticism made things difficult for us. It got tougher and tougher each quarter.”
Junior Jasmine Glover shined for the Vikings on Saturday night. She played as one of the leaders on a team that refused to quit.
“Jasmine has had a good year,” Honaker said. “She had a great game. It was awesome. She really worked hard to get the basketball.”
Another all-star performance came from junior Mailey Ballard, who didn’t play her usual role for her team. Instead of playing as a forward, she filled in at the point guard position and had to learn how to run an offense on the fly.
“Mailey Ballard maybe didn’t have her best game scoring for us,” Honaker said. “We had to move her into the point guard position to relieve some pressure for us. It was a position she hasn’t played all season and she did really good at it.”
Honaker said Ballard’s performance in a new position during a playoff game gave him more hope for the Vikings in the future. Her versatility showed that his team can adjust and will be able to come at its opponents with different looks in the 2020-21 season.
On the defensive side of the ball, senior Skylar Ingram and junior Marissa Howell were the centers of attention. Ingram used her size while Howell used her athleticism to limit the opportunities of Orangewood’s bigger players.
Despite a good display on defense, Orangewood used its own defensive tactics to not only negate the first quarter, but also keep the game out of reach for the Vikings.
“Realistically, their strengths are defense and intensity and utilizing your size to out you in bad situations and we allowed it to happen,” Honaker said. “It was a close game, then the next thing you know you look up and it’s a 20-point game and that’s really hard to battle back from.”
With the season officially over, Honaker now has a clear vision of what’s to come next year for his squad. Along with Ballard’s newfound versatility, Valencia has a lot of young talent at the junior varsity and freshman levels that makes Honaker optimistic.
“We have a lot of young talent that just arrived at Valencia,” he said. “We had a great group of freshmen this year. I look to see that a lot of those will be very integral parts over our next three seasons. They have a bright future.”