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As the clock wound down in the Valley City High School girls basketball team's 55-51 win over St. Mary's Saturday at the Hi-Liner Activity Center, junior Dierra Diegel consistently found herself in a high pressure situation.
Not only was she playing the final five minutes of the second half with four fouls, but of the Hi-Liners' final eight free throws in the game, Diegel took six.
"I knew those free throws were going to count, so I was thinking, 'I've got to make these. I've got to put them in, separate it, make it so they don't have any last second chance to win the game," Diegel said.
Though nervous, Diegel kept her poise at the line, hitting all six of her free throw attempts in the final three minutes, and getting a layup with a minute left, all of which proved to be crucial points in the four-point win.
It improves the Hi-Liners to 6-0 this season, the best record in Class A entering this week. Last year's VCHS girls won eight games.
Of the six, the first two were decided in overtime, and the last two were both decided by a combined six points.
But unlike the team's 60-58 win over Jamestown, in which the Hi-Liners had a strong start but allowed a late comeback, the Hi-Liners were the ones forced to complete a comeback.
The Hi-Liners struggled from the tipoff and allowed 12 straight points from St. Mary's to open the first half.
"We were getting shots, we were doing things, but we were just kind of out of synch," VCHS coach Jim McDaniel said.
The Hi-Liners scored their first points of the game when Clarissa Olson hit a layup to make it 12-2 with 13:41 left in the half. 10 seconds later, Diegel had two free throws to make it 12-4.
Though VCHS had consistent offense the rest of the half, the St. Mary's offense provided a plenty of counters. With 7:10 left in the half, Diegel hit a layup to narrow the Saints' lead to 17-12, but St. Mary's responded with a 3-pointer from Sydney Miller. Diegel then hit two free throws, but Taylor Gendreau responded with a 3 for St. Mary's.
The Saints' lead consistent to the end of the half, when they led 33-24, and into the first 9 minutes of the second half.
It wasn't until the final eight minutes of the game that VCHS got the push they were hoping for after McDaniel called a timeout.
"(I told them) 'If we're going to do it, it's got to be now,'" McDaniel said. "It was about that point were we started to turn the lead around."
It started with a rebound that Diegel put back up for two points with 8:19 left to make it 42-36. 20 seconds later, Olson was fouled making a layup, which sunk. She hit the extra free throw to make it 42-39 with 7:59 left.
24 seconds after that, Diegel took an inside pass from sister Danica Diegel, and put it up to make it 42-41 St. Mary's.
There was no scoring for about two minutes, until Danica Diegel hit a layup to give Valley City a 43-42 lead, their first of the game, with 5:41 left.
Shortly after, St. Mary's tied it with a free throw and both teams tied it at 44 points each and 46 points each before the final three minutes.
With 2:40 left, Dierra Diegel took her first two shots at the free-throw line, hitting both of them to go up 48-46. Olson went to the line 20 seconds later, hitting one of two to increase the lead to 49.
Miller hit a layup with just under two minutes to bring Valley City's lead back to one point before Dierra Diegel hit two more free throws to make it 51-48 with 1:36 left.
After two missed free throws by St. Mary's, Dierra Diegel got a layup to take a five point lead with a minute left, but a 3-pointer by Dominique Giesen narrowed it back to 53-51 with 43.6 seconds left.
As time wound down, Valley City gave the ball back to St. Mary's when Jessica Denholm was called for a travel as she fell to the ground with 15.6 seconds left. The Saints gave the ball back to Valley City, however, when Giesen was called for a charge on a potential game-tying layup with five seconds left.
On the ensuing inbounds play, Madison Taylor threw a cross-court inbounds pass to Dierra Diegel, who was fouled by Giesen on what was ruled as an intentional foul. The technical foul gave Diegel two free throws alone at the line, and put Valley City up 55-51 with 1.8 seconds.
McDaniel credited Taylor for making a good pass to Diegel on the inbounds, which, had it gone out, would have given St. Mary's the ball underneath their own basket.
Dierra Diegel was proud of how the team responded after trailing 12-0 early and it said the comeback was a matter of attitude.
"We couldn't hang our heads right away, and I think a lot of times in the past, teams would just hang their heads," Diegel said. "We knew right away, after coach took a time out, that we were going to have to fight and we were going to have to keep playing to get back in it."
Diegel led VCHS with 25 points and seven rebounds. Olson had 10 points and four rebounds. St. Mary's was led by Giesen with 14 points and Gendreau with 13. The Saints finished 5-10 from the 3-point line.
St. Mary's 65, VCHS boys 45
The Valley City High School boys basketball team struggled at the wrong time in its 65-43 loss to No. 3 St. Mary's Saturday at the HAC.
Coming out of halftime, the Hi-Liners trailed 32-22, but couldn't find their rhythm as the visiting Saints hit four three-pointers and a layup in the first seven minutes of the second half to up their lead to 20 points, which the Hi-Liners couldn't make up.
"It was a six or eight point game for most of the first half, it wasn't bad," VCHS coach Scott Hurlimann said. "The second half we kind of started slow. They went on a 5-0 run and we just couldn't really hit a few shots. We needed to come out and get a good start to the second half and weren't able to do that."
The Hi-Liners stuggled early, falling behind 19-8 in the first six and a half minutes of the game, but worked back behind post play from Chase Carpenter and Tayler Lentz, along with a 3-pointer from Mason Denholm, to get the St. Mary's lead down to 19-16 with 7:52 left in the first half.
Denholm and Carpenter kept it close the rest of the half, but the Saints clored the final four points of the half to end up up 10.
Trent Bohan started the second half with a layup and a 3-pointer for St. Mary's, who later got more 3-pointers from Brian Obritsch, Darius Sparks and Ross Kopp to expand the lead to 46-26.
In the period where they extended the lead, Hurlimann was pleased with Valley City's shot selection.
"We really didn't take bad shots, we just didn't knock them down and against a good team like this, we've got to shoot a good percent," he said.
The Saints lead got as high as 62-37 late in the game, though the Hi-Liners got late scoring from Carpenter, Denholm and Jared Lentz, who had 17, 10 and 9 points, respectively. All nine of Lentz's points came in the second half.