By Scott Schlaufman
As the members of the Valley City High School girls basketball team left their locker room Friday night at the Hi-Liner Activity Center, many of the Hi-Liners seemed almost euphoric.
The girls' win 60-58 win over No. 4 Jamestown High School moved the Hi-Liners to 5-0 this season and leaves the Hi-Liners as one of the two remaining undefeated Class A teams in the state.
"I wouldn't have guessed that we'd be 5-0," Valley City High School coach Jim McDaniel said following Friday's win. "When you look at it, we've played some pretty tough teams but we've got a good bunch. They work hard and their hard work is paying off in wins, so that's exciting for them and the program because they've done a lot of good things to try to turn our girls basketball program around, as far as the girls working in the offseason and working hard in practice everyday.
"They've got a good, winning attitude right now."
It's an attitude that helped her preserve a close win Friday, in which the Hi-Liners limited the Bluejays to 18 points in the first half but never lost the lead as the Bluejays made a final push in the last two minutes.
Jamestown held the lead only twice in the game, first when Kyra Dewald got a layup immediately after the opening tip and 40 seconds later when Dewald hit a free throw to go up 3-2.
After that, Valley City dominated the boards, then followed it with cuts to the net that ended in fouls.
The Hi-Liners' first lead came with just under 16 minutes left when Madison Taylor hit two free throws to make it 4-3. Two minutes later Jessica Denholm hit a layup and two free throws to go up 8-6. The Hi-Liners then got points from Claire Olson, Danica Diegel and a steal and layup by Megan McDaniel to go up 15-10 with 7:52 left.
Despite their runs, the Bluejays kept it close until the final six minutes of the half.
With 6:38 left in the first, Madison Taylor got a rebound and was fouled to make it 16-13. Half a minute later, Denholm put up a 3-pointer, which was followed shortly after by a free throw by Taylor. With just over four minutes left, Diegel hit another layup, which was followed by another 3-pointer from Denholm.
A layup by Taylor ended the Hi-Liner run with 3-minutes left and a 27-13 lead, though Jamestown scored five more points before halftime.
McDaniel credited his team with limiting Jamestown's Dewald and Erin Mullowney in the first half.
"I thought we did a nice job containing them early." McDaniel said. "They're going to get their points but I feel they had to work for every point."
For the first six minutes of the second half, Valley City maintained the lead, but then Dewald found her stride and the Bluejays put together a run to even things out.
It started with a layup by Dewald with 13:43 left in the game. She was fouled on the play and hit the free throw to make it 31-23 in Valley City's favor.
Two minutes later, she hit another layup, with another foul and another made free throw. Paige Peterson then it two free throws and Mullowney hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 33-31.
But as close as it got, the Hi-Liners never lost the lead, but kept it with a three-point play by Denholm here, a 3-pointer from Megan McDaniel there,adn a quick run got the lead back up to 47-38 for Valley City with five minutes left, which stayed up as far as 2:25 remaining, when McDaniel hit a layup to make it 57-49.
In the final two minutes, though, Valley City got into foul trouble, losing Taylor and Olson to fouls as the Bluejays suck five of eight free throws to make it 57-54 with 30 seconds left.
Jamestown worked to preserve the clock, fouling quickly on the inbounds, which sent McDaniel to the line, where she hit a free throw to make it 58-54 with 21 seconds left.
Jamestown then got the ball to Mullowney with 12 seconds left, who hit a 3-pointer to make it 58-57. On the inbound, Denholm was fouled and hit a 3-pointer to make it 59-57.
On the ensuing play, Dewald was fouled driving to the lane, but hit only one free throw to make it 59-58. A free throw by Diegel to make it 60-58 was the final point of the game, though Dewald tried hitting a half-court shot as time expired.
Denholm led Valley City with 18 points and Diegel and McDaniel both had 11. Dewald led Jamestown with 17 points and Mullowney had 15, all 3-pointers.
Coach McDaniel said he was pleased with his team for playing well, especially with starting forward Mariah Olstad out of the town for the night.
"We were missing Mariah today and everyone did their job very, very well," he said. "I'm very proud of them."