Barry Goldwater was known for his conservative politics in the 1960s.
On the basketball court, Valley Vista is anything but conservative.
The Monsoon’s 5A-II girl basketball squad showed why Tuesday night, as it run-and-gun offense and pressure defense was too much for Goldwater (8-9, 2-4 in region) in a 69-63 Northwest Region win.
“We definitely like to run and get out and score quick,” said Valley Vista coach Rachel Matakas. “And we always come out and go hard on defense. We felt (with Goldwater) they wouldn’t be able to handle our pressure to well, and they did have trouble with it in the second quarter.”
Matakas went to man-to-man in the second quarter and the Monsoon’s change in tempo was immediate. Down 20-12 after the first quarter, Valley Vista went on an 18-3 run, tying the game at 26 on Maraja Johnson’s jumper with 3:10 remaining the half, and taking the lead on the next possession with senior Jazmine Nunnelly hitting a short jumper. It would be the last time the Monsoon would trail.
While Johnson hit the tying shot, the play was started on the defensive side by Antoinette Miller’s steal and down court feed. Nursing a sore knee, the senior guard missed the first quarter but entered in the second and blew the momentum toward the Monsoon.
When Miller wasn’t stealing the ball, tipping a pass or pressuring her opponent she was feeding the ball into the post for driving lay-ups by Johnson and Nunnelly. However, Miller rolled her ankle in the third, forcing Matakas to dive deeper into her bench. With a club that returned most of the players from last season state semifinal squad, going deep into the bench is something that doesn’t scare Matakas.
“We can go 12 deep if we need to,” Matakas said. “This squad is more mature this year. There is always one girl who comes up big when we need it. Like tonight, Antoinette rolls her ankle and other girls stepped up their game. They all know what needs to be done and they’re good enough athletes to do it.”
Valley Vista (11-5, 5-1) went into the half, leading 38-27, outscoring the Bulldogs 28-7 in the second quarter.
The Monsoon built a 23-point lead when Johnson, after tipping a Goldwater pass, fed junior Desiree Phillips for an open lay-up to go up 53-30 with more than five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
That’s when Valley Vista’s aggressiveness nearly got the better of them.
During a span of six Goldwater possessions, the Monsoon collected five fouls. With the Bulldogs in the bonus late in the quarter, Johnishia Welles hit a free throw to complete a 3-point play and get the lead to under 20.
Goldwater creeped to within seven, 63-56, when Welles hit a pair free throws with 3:50 to play. The Bulldogs used a 26-10 run to get back into the game, as they went to their horses on the glass and in the paint – Welles and Jessica Lord. Welles finished with 25 points (11 off free throws) while Lord had 10.
“Free throws is what got them back into the game,” Matakas said. “As a team, we need to do a better job of adjusting to what the referees are calling so we’re not continuously making the same fouls.”
Johnson would break Valley Vista’s fourth quarter scoring drought as she drove past two defenders in the paint for a lay up. She then fed senior Dejanay Faison for a short jumper to push the lead back to double-digits at 12 with little more than a minute to play.
Phillips paced the Monsoon with 15 points and Nunnelly finished with 13.