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Valley too much for Forest Lake

By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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LAKE OF THE PINES — After four straight losses to Forest Lake Christian over the last three seasons, Samantha Shoemake and her Valley Christian teammates were more than ready for another shot at the Falcons. The Lions camped in Forest Lake’s passing lanes for easy steals, tied up the Falcons for countless jump balls and held off a spirited rally over the final four minutes to beat the hosts 63-61 in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoff opener Tuesday night. Valley will face top seed Bradshaw Christian, an 87-12 winner over Lodi Academy, on Thursday night. The Sacramento Metro League rivals met twice this season, with the Pride beating the Lions both times. Forest Lake had bounced Valley in the first round of the playoffs two years in a row and beat them twice in nonleague action earlier this season. “Oh my gosh, everyone in the locker room was talking before the game about how we had to beat them,” said Shoemake, who had 17 points. “The third time’s the charm. We just figured we had to go out and give our best. Win or lose, if we go out and give our best, we can’t go wrong.” In the third meeting this season, No. 9 Valley looked prepared to avenge the losses from the outset. The tenacious Lions (17-8) raced to first-quarter leads of 9-3 and 14-8. The No. 8 Falcons took their only advantage, 16-14, on a Maggie Aubuchon layup early in the second quarter, but Valley’s Carly Gish answered with one of the three 3-pointers she banked in over the next five minutes as the Lions had control at halftime, 34-23. “We really weren’t playing our game in the beginning and we just stepped up in the second half,” said Aubuchon, who scored a team-high 16. “We got a good pep talk and it turns out we wanted it more than we thought we did.” Forest Lake (15-10) opened the half with three straight baskets to cut the deficit to five before Valley rediscovered its shooting touch and resumed the pressure that forced many first-half turnovers. The Lions led by as many as 15 late in the third quarter. “They were really aggressive to the ball and unfortunately the officiating that we typically see calls it really tight, so there was a lot of contact that normally gets called,” Falcons head coach Linda Clough. “They were very physical. In the olden days basketball used to be called a non-contact sport, but definitely it’s not that now. There was a lot of physicality. It caused the ball to change possession a lot more, but you’ve got to play through what’s been called.” Trailing 52-38, the Falcons reduced the deficit to single digits on a pair of Molly Huusfeldt free throws with 4:48 left. Huusfeldt and Laura Ritchart brought the crowd back into it with back-to-back 3-pointers over the next two minutes and Forest Lake continued to chip away. “They’re great fighters,” Clough said. “They’re great battlers. They have huge hearts and it’s not over until it’s over. I’m proud of them for that.” Ritchart buried another trey with 54 seconds left to make it 62-59, but Gish – who led all scorers with 21 – made a free throw with 37.3 remaining. Ritchart was fouled going up to the hoop with 8.3 seconds left and made one free throw to cut the deficit to two, but the Lions played keep-away without getting fouled as time expired. “It all wraps up in determination,” Aubuchon said. “They had more determination than we did and they are strong, even though we’re bigger.” Ritchart finished with 14 points for the Falcons, while Emily English scored 12 and Huusfeldt added 10.