Playoffs provide third chance for VCA Lady Lions

Valley Christian travels to Forest Lake Christian Tuesday
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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With high hopes that a third attempt holds the key to success, the girls basketball team from Valley Christian Academy will head to Auburn Tuesday night. The Lady Lions have lost two prior meetings with Forest Lake Christian this season, but this one has more meaning than the others. The other two contests came in a pair of preseason battles, but Tuesday night’s contest opens the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs for both squads. VCA enters the game as the No. 9 seed, while the Falcons carry the No. 8 ranking. “I actually thought we would have a good chance at seeing Forest Lake again,” said Valley Christian coach Kim Contreras. “We had a rough start at the beginning of the season so I was a little surprised we placed as high as nine.” The VCA offense is paced by two juniors and a sophomore, all of whom score in double figures, but the biggest difference this time around may be the health of the Lions. Valley Christian was not at full strength during those first two meetings, played nine days apart back in December. “My girls are pretty confident that they can hang with Forest Lake this time around,” Contreras said. “We fixed some issues on defense and we were missing two of our starters the first two games against them. One of them (Sam Shoemake) is averaging 13 points and her rebounds are a big part of our defense.” Shoemake, a 5-foot-8 junior center is the team’s second-leading scorer. The leading point producer for the Lions is 5-5 junior point guard Carly Gish, who has also changed her game since December. Sophomore forward Heather Frank is the third VCA player averaging more than 10 per game. The 5-5 wing player knocks down 11 per contest. “Our point guard (Carly Gish) is more confident in the role of point and is averaging 17 points,” Contreras said. In Forest Lake Christian (7-5 in the Central Valley Christian League, 15-9 overall), Valley Christian (11-3 in the Sacramento Metro Athletic League) will see a team that averages just 41 points per game and relies on a tough defense to get results. The Falcons spread the scoring load around with just Maggie Aubuchon (12 PPG) and Laura Ritchart (10.3 PPG) tallying in double figures. The survivor of this game will likely have the unfortunate blessing of a trip to Bradshaw Christian for round two Thursday night. Contreras’ squad is very familiar with the Pride, who at 14-0 are the champions of the SMAL. “It is unfortunate that we would have to see Bradshaw again but the girls are realizing that they just need to play confident and bring both their offense and defense,” Contreras said. “This was a rough season for the Lady Lions after being plagued with injuries, vacations and illnesses. Our ladies fought through w The postseason experience will be of great value to this young VCA team, which carries just two seniors. Regardless how far they get this year, the extra practice time combined with the high-energy additional games should have long-term benefits for the Lady Lions. “As a coach I am proud of the outcome of this season,” Contreras said. “We had girls playing new positions with a new offense and defense and they caught on quick and kept on playing. This is a young team and I will only be losing one starter, so the outlook of next year is looking promising.” Tuesday’s playoff opener tips at 7 p.m. at Forest Lake Christian in Auburn.