WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Valley defeats Santa Monica College in the final home game of the season for their fourth straight victory .
By Kevin Buckles Jr., Editor in Chief
On a night when sophomores were honored on the throne in their last home game as Lady Monarchs, it was the freshmen who reigned supreme.
Freshman forward Adaori Obi scored a season-high 28 points along with acting as part-time glass-cleaner, snatching 19 rebounds. Freshman point guard Sydney Hua was a rebound away from a huge triple-double in Wednesday night’s 74-63 win vs. the Santa Monica College (SMC) Corsairs.
The win marked Valley’s fourth straight victory, pushing their record back to the .500 mark at 14-14 (7-6 conference.) as they pushed to try and end the season on a high note.
“Finish strong,” said Head Coach Monica Hang. “One more game left and we want to finish with a winning season, so we still have to compete hard.”
Competing hard is just what the Lady Monarchs did early against Corsairs, as they catapulted to a quick 12-2 double-digit lead just four minutes into the game, led by Obi’s six points and three boards.
Valley’s quick start was a result of aggressive play on both ends of the floor; offensively, the ladies in green attacked the basket relentlessly for easy layups and drawn fouls, while packing the paint on defense to force long, contested shots.
However, midway into the first half, the Lady Monarchs offense hit a brick wall as the Corsairs began executing a full-court press, disrupting Valley’s flow en route to an 11-3 run to take a 20-19 lead seven minutes before halftime.
SMC’s press, along with some half-court traps, forced Valley into a copious amount of mistakes, forcing an eye-popping 21 turnovers — to Santa Monica’s three — on which the Corsairs capitalized with 22 points.
“We just needed to stay calm running our press break,” said Hua. “When we started panicking is when we started turning over the ball over and missing opportunities.”
Fortunately for the Lady Monarchs, hot shooting beyond the arc in the final six minutes of the first half from Hua and sophomores Hannah Ascencio, and Melody Gauthier — who all combined to shoot 7-11 (63%) from the three-point line in the game — helped Valley take a comfortable 38-29 lead into the break.
To start the second half, Valley was able to carry over its late first-half offensive success, quickly pushed the lead to double digits just two minutes in. Though their jump shots weren’t falling as well as in the first half, the Lady Monarchs were able to draw fouls and get to the free-throw line 18 times in the second half — converting 14 attempts.
The Corsairs’ explosive backcourt of Briah Nelson and Aniese Palmore did its best to keep the game within reach, scoring 20 out of their combined 32 points in the second half and bringing the deficit down to just two with 13 minutes remaining.
However, the Lady Monarchs quickly countered by reeling off a 24-14 game-clinching run, led by a backcourt star of their own in Hua, who finished with 12 points, 13 assists, and 9 rebounds.
“We had to get the win tonight,” said Hua. “I want [the sophomores] to remember that we finished this season strong.”
Obi, the conference’s second-leading rebounder, said the game was “emotional” and “meant a lot because the sophomores deserved it” because of all of their hard work.
“We came out, did what coach wanted and won, so it felt really good,” said forward Gauthier, who stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 blocks in her final game at Valley.
“I’m going to miss the people and the environment the most. We’re really family oriented, we love each other, and it’s just so much fun being with each other.”
The Lady Monarchs would go on to lose in their final game against the Glendale Community College Vaqueros 64-68 at Verdugo Gym, finishing the season 14-15.