Canyon girls’ basketball (8-0, 3-0) defeated the visiting Valencia Vikings (7-2, 2-2), 60-46, in their first Foothill League matchup on Friday night.
The Cowboys were led by senior Jade Sims, who poured in 18 points in the win.
The matchup with Valencia was Canyon’s fifth game in as many days. On top of being tired from the long week, the Cowboys overcame some players being sick or injured and kept their undefeated season alive.
Early in the game, Canyon senior Brielle Miller took a hard fall and would sub out for the rest of the game.
It was still all Cowboys early as the team nearly built a double-digit lead in the first quarter.
“We just wake up and grind every day,” said Sims. “We fight as hard as we can, especially with one of our starting players being out. It took a really big toll especially on me, [Garcia] and Koko [Booker] because we have to pick up a big shift.”
The Vikings would battle back and steal the lead thanks to an 11-0 run capped off with a Libby Oxciano 8-foot jumper.
Oxciano finished with a game-high 20 points.
Canyon guard Josie Regez then checked into the game in hopes to spark the team’s offense. Regez has been out sick and not played all week but was ready to go if her team needed her and did they ever.
Regez hit some big shots and finished the game with 12 points in three quarters of work.
The Cowboys were lethargic to start the third quarter with a bad turnover on their first possession followed by a shot clock violation on the next.
It took a few minutes but eventually the team started cooking. Regez hit a three to take a 4-point lead but shortly after, Canyon was hit with another injury. Senior point guard Aaliyah Garcia went down with a twisted ankle and would exit the game.
Garcia would re-enter the game early in the fourth quarter but turned the ball over on her first play. The reigning Foothill League Player of the Year made up for it in no time with a steal and layup on the other end.
Canyon, like most great teams, runs a relentless full court press. The Vikings have a handful of solid ball handlers and managed to find a good chunk of their scoring by breaking through the press, leading to wide-open shots under the basket.
Most of the transition scoring came from senior Hailey McKell, who finished the night with 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
McKell’s younger sister, Cara, has been sensational this year for Valencia. The freshman finished her night with 11 points, seven rebounds, a steal and one block.
The Cowboys called off the press in the fourth quarter and let their half-court defense do their talking. Canyon had its best quarter defensively and held Valencia to just seven points for the final period. Their physical defense forced some tough shots and would lead the team to prevail yet again.
“We are small and undersized, but what are we going to do about it?” said Canyon head coach Jessica Haayer. “Our big thing is physicality. Like how physical can you be? Who’s going to touch first? Who’s going to get somebody off balance first?”
The Cowboys kept their foot on the gas and rode a 12-3 run to the final buzzer to earn their eighth win of the year.
“It’s play to win every single game. We want to win,” said Haayer. “And we just talked about how this is our house, this is our home, you protect it. People go down, who can step up, come in and fill some shoes, ultimately defend and get rebounds. And I think they did it tonight.”
Canyon will finally get a break from games in the upcoming weeks but will still remain busy. The team will have finals to deal with in the classroom before heading out to the Nike Tournament in Arizona during their holiday break. Canyon returns home to host Castaic on Tuesday, Jan. 3, at 5 p.m.
The Vikings will also have finals and some tournament action to deal with over the break. Valencia heads to Golden Valley on Tuesday, Jan. 3, at 5 p.m.