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Valencia girls hoops loses heartbreaker to J.W. North

Vikings lose 53-52

Posted: February 22, 2014 10:16 p.m.
Updated: February 22, 2014 10:16 p.m.
Valencia's Kayla Konrad (23) shoots over JW North defenders on Saturday at Valencia High. Valencia's Kayla Konrad (23) shoots over JW North defenders on Saturday at Valencia High.
Valencia's Kayla Konrad (23) shoots over JW North defenders on Saturday at Valencia High.

The tears weren’t so much about an end, but about what should have been.

The co-Foothill League champion Valencia Vikings girls basketball lost 53-52 in heartbreaking fashion to J.W. North of Riverside on Saturday in the first round of the CIF-Southern section Division IAA playoffs.

“We should have won that game,” said Valencia senior Paige Nealy. “But the energy — some came out, some didn’t.”

Valencia led 13-6 in the first quarter, but let down thereafter.

Mix in 25 turnovers and 50-percent shooting from the free throw line and it was a recipe for disaster.

The light didn’t turn on after the Vikings’ good start until midway through the fourth quarter after the Huskies’

Dominique McDonald made a layup to give North its biggest lead at 46-39.

After a Nealy steal, sophomore guard Sabrina Thompson hit a jumper that ignited a comeback.
Valencia (19-9) finally caught North (18-8) at 47-47 with 2:39 to play after Thompson, who consistently attacked the North defense, was fouled and hit two free throws.

Thompson scored 15 points in the game.

The score was tied again at 51-51, but for the second straight possession Valencia left McDonald open under the basket and she laid the ball in with 19 seconds left to give the Huskies a 53-51 lead.

Thompson launched a deep three that was off on the way back and Valencia freshman Kayla Konrad rebounded and was fouled.

She hit the first free throw, then North called a timeout to ice her.

Her next shot hit the front end of the rim and the Vikings’ season ended.

But it didn’t have to be heartbreaking and Konrad, who scored 15 points, was a major reason why Valencia was in position to tie and even win. And she was a big reason why the Vikings won a second straight league championship.

The matchup didn’t seem favorable coming in, with North having been a finalist in Division IIAA last year and reaching the state tournament regional semifinals.

But seven seniors graduated from that team, including five players who went on to play at four-year colleges.

It showed early with the Huskies making early unforced turnovers and 21 total in the game.

But they did three things right — they defended the post, hit eight 3-pointers in the game and leaned on junior wing player KeShara Scott.

“We’re really young and made a lot of turnovers on trying to make things happen that weren’t there,” said North head coach Leonard DeCoud. “I kept telling them, ‘We got this.’”

North went on a 13-0 run that swung the score to a 19-13 Huskies lead early in the second quarter.

In that span, Scott scored 10 points and made three steals.

“I don’t know what happened. Maybe we underestimated them,” Thompson said. “It took a while for us to click.”

Valencia kept wanting to go inside to Nealy, but North refused to let that happen.

Vikings head coach Jerry Mike pleaded over and over for his veterans to take over, but seniors Nealy and Sandra

Ikeora could only net eight points apiece on a combined 7-of-15 shooting.

However, Valencia’s talented youth makes it force for years to come.

“They’re going to be outstanding,” Nealy said, consoling a shaken Thompson.


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