Valley Falls To Lady Dragons
Cameron coach Roger Cain knows that in sectional play, a lot of times it is going to come down to free throws to win a game.
So with a little more than four minutes to play and Cameron holding a slim three-point lead on Valley, the Dragons were going to play keep-away and take their chances at the line.
The Dragons made 10 of 12 free throws down the stretch to earn a 42-31 victory in a W.Va. Class A Region One, Section One semifinal at Valley High School.
“We know we can knock down free throws so when we had a lead, three, five points, I had faith in my girls,” Cain said. “They stepped up to the line and they knocked those shots down. I tell them every day that when those shots count, that is when you have to make them and they did.”
Just how much did free-throw shooting come into play? Consider this:
* Cameron made 23 of 37 free throws in the game; Valley went to the line 12 times total.
* Cameron made 19 free throws in the second half, including all 13 of the Dragons’ points in the fourth quarter.
* Courtney Walker’s basket midway through the third quarter gave the Dragons a 26-22 lead. It was Cameron’s only field goal of the second half.
“Definitely not,” Cain said when asked if he thought he would win with one basket in the second half.
“We have really focused on free throws. We rely a lot on our defense and what a great job from them stepping up. When you give up 31 points, you hope most of the time you are going to come out with a victory.”
Defense had to be the key for the Dragons as they shot 9 of 47 (19 percent) from the field. The Dragons limited a potent Lumberjills (15-8) attack to 23 percent from the field (11 of 48) and only allowed one player into doubles figures.
Cameron (16-7) led 31-23 before a Valley’s Sophie Palmer did all she could do to get her team back into the game.
A basket and a 3-pointer cut into the Cameron lead. Mel Thomas grabbed a rebound off a Palmer miss and Valley was down 33-30 with five minutes to go.
But that was as close as Valley got.
Cameron left the door open with four straight missed free throws, but Valley came up short on its possessions down the court and a steal from behind by Cameron’s Autumn Gossett gave the ball back to the Dragons. Throw in injuries to two starters within 20 seconds of each other and Lumberjills coach Jeff Derby had to go to his bench to complete the comeback.
It didn’t matter as Cameron did the job at the free-throw line to keep the Lumberjills at bay.
“We just couldn’t get shots to go in,” Derby said.
“When shots don’t go in, we can’t press and that is what happens. We scored 31 and that isn’t going to win games like this.
“I told the girls not to hang their heads and be proud. We still won 15 games and you can’t take those away. At the end of the day, it’s just a basketball game.”
Courtney Walker paced the Dragons with 16 points, followed by Kelsie Meintel with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Palmer led the Lumberjills with 16 points, including a trio of three-pointers, while distributing two assists.
Rachel Baker followed with nine markers, two rebounds and two rejections, while Melanie Thomas supplied four points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and blocked two shots.
In addition, Caitlyn Underwood sank a two-pointer, while grabbing 10 rebounds, for all the Valley scoring.
The Lumberjills saw the return of Cassidy West from a severe ankle sprain. She contributed three rebounds and made a steal, while causing quite a few tie-ups with her hustle before being carried out with another bad ankle sprain.
Thomas also had to be carried out with an ankle sprain too.
The ‘Jills will lose starters West, Thomas and Baker to graduation, but will return starters Palmer and Underwood, along with Jenna Dallison, Emma Ueltschy, Tessa Dundgeon, and a host of others.
Bruce Crawford also contributed to the story