By Scott Schlaufman
For the first 40 minutes of Valley City High School girls basketball team's 63-53 win over Maple Valley Tuesday at the Hi-Liner Activity Center, the Hi-Liners had little trouble finding a good shot.
But, for whatever reason, the team's numerous open looks wouldn't make the short trip off the backboard and through the hoop.
"We had good shot selection and good shooting opportunities the entire game, but it took us a while to get where we could consistently hit some," Valley City coach Jim McDaniel said.
It wasn't until the overtime period that the Hi-Liners found a consistent stroke, but once they did, it was seemingly lights out.
After opening the four-minute overtime with a layup from Clarissa Olson, the Hi-Liners had three consecutive 3-pointers and four points on free throws from Dierra Diegel to end the night on a 15-5 run over the Raiders.
It was the latest chapter in what's built to be a rivalry recently. Last year, the girls teams split a pair of games, with the Hi-Liners getting a win in Tower City but the Raiders getting it back at the Barnes County Tournament.
Even Sunday, the schools' boys teams toughed it out in a 47-46 win for Maple Valley.
Tuesday, it was just as close until the overtime period.
All game long the teams switched up shot selection, traded leads and forced turnovers. Maple Valley had a 25-22 lead at halftime and had a free throw with 5.7 seconds left to send it to overtime, but couldn't get things to click in the overtime period.
Maple Valley coach Jeff Miller believed part of the issue was fatigue that affected the Raiders' zone defense, but also credited Valley City with sinking shots at the right time.
"What can you say? They hit their shots," he said.
Valley City took an early lead in the game, getting behind Madison Taylor for four points in the first two and a half minutes. They built off the lead in the first seven minutes, getting a 3-pointer from Megan McDaniel, an easy two from Clarissa Olson and a layup from Dierra Diegel before Taylor hit another to go up 13-9.
But the Raiders used balanced play to get back into it, taking a 14-13 lead on a layup by point guard Abbie Tinjum.
The teams went back and forth until the final five minutes. With 5:16 left in the half, McDaniel hit a 3-pointer, to go up 22-21, but it was the last shot Valley City made in the half. The Raiders got two layups from Rylee Nudell to finish the half ahead 25-22.
Maple Valley continued to exploit Valley City's shooting struggles early in the second half, getting points from Nudell in the paint, along with points from Ashley Punton and Megan Kasowski, to go up 32-24 with 13:39 left.
But when Valley City's Dierra Diegel came back into the game after sitting for several minutes with an apparent injury that caused her to limp off the floor, she brought momentum with her. In a two minute span, she hit two layups and two free throws, and sister Danica Diegel hit a short shot to narrow Maple Valley's lead to 34-32 with 11:12 left in the game.
The Raiders kept the lead until the final five minutes, when the Hi-Liners tied it 42-42 on a 3-pointer by Olson. They took a 44-42 lead on a short shot by Taylor with 3:28 left, then extended it on a long two by Olson to make it 46-42 with 2:54 left.
Nudell and Pautz ihit shots to make it 47-46, but a layup by Dierra Diegel gave Valley City the 48-47 lead with 58.6 seconds left. A free throw by Maple Valley's Kasowski tied the game with 5.7 seconds left.
Valley City was led by Dierra Diegel with 14 points, but also had McDaniel (12 points), Olson (11) and Taylor (10) finish in double figure scoring. Jessica Denholm had eight points, including two of the 3-pointers in the overtime period.
Maple Valley was led by Pautz with 22 points and Nudell had 20.
The Raiders played most of the second half without Tinjum, their main point guard, who left the game five and a half minutes into the half with an ankle injury and had to be carried off the court.
She missed the rest of the game, but Miller said he expects her back soon. He said he was pleased with how the team played with her out of the lineup, which included Katie Pautz taking over at point.
"They stepped up and we didn't miss a beat," he said. "I'm not saying we wouldn't have loved to have Abbie in there, but the girls played hard."
The win puts Valley City at 2-0 with both of their wins coming in overtime, something coach McDaniel sees as a positive.
"We talked in the locker room, as far as two overtime games, it would be easy to just kind of fold and get down on yourself or whatever, and we haven't done that at all," he said. "It just shows how hard we're going to battle."