WEST FARGO — For the first month of the season, the Valley City High School girls basketball team was tested in plenty of ways. Overtime. Large comebacks.
But after a 68-47 loss Tuesday at West Fargo High School, the previously undefeated Hi-Liners faced their toughest challenge yet — the defending state runner-up.
Though the Hi-Liner girls opened the game with a point-for-point run with the Packers, a lack of scoring late in the first half kept Valley City from winning their seventh straight to start the season.
“They got points everywhere, I think. Perimeter, inside, free-throw line. They just don’t give you a chance to get back in it” Valley City coach Jim McDaniel said. “I knew that going in, that we could not, like (against) St. Mary’s we got down 12-0 right from the start, I knew against West Fargo there’s no way you can come back on something like that.”
The game started somewhat evenly for the teams. West Fargo started the game with a 5-0 run in the first minute, getting a 3-pointer from Cassidy Thorson and a layup from future Valley City State player Lexi Lennon.
In response, Valley City’s Jessica Denholm found her stride, hitting a mid-range jumper with 16 minutes left, a layup with 15:32 left, then dishing it to Dierra Deigel who dropped a layup to make it 6-5 with 14:12 left in the game.
The teams then traded leads, with Lennon putting up a layup to go up 7-6, before a 3-pointer by Denholm made it 9-7 with 11:42 left.
The Packers soon tied it on a 3-pointer by Christine Baltezore, but Valley City got the lead back on a layup by Diegel and again shortly later on a Madison Taylor layup with 8:53 left in the half to make it 13-11 Hi-Liners.
It was the last lead Valley City had the ret of the game as West Fargo went on a 22-4 run in the final eight and a half minutes of the half.
It started with two free throws by Thorson and later continued with steals, long shots and free throws as Valley City’s Diegel twins, Taylor, and Olstad all got into foul trouble late in the half and played limited minutes late in the half.
It allowed the Packers to get points from a number of sources including Thorson, Jolene Woodbury, Lennon, and Shelby Gustafson, to go up 33-16 at halftime.
Olstad, who had a layup and a free throw, and Danica Diegel, who had a free throw, scored the Hi-Liners’ final four points of the half.
Their offensive troubles stemmed largely from missed shots, though the Hi-Liners also had miscommunications at times.
Valley City finished the half shooting 7-24 from the field and only 1-4 from the free-throw line, a problem McDaniel credited to the Packers’ pressing defense, which the Hi-Liners had little issue passing around but limited the time in which Valley City ran its offense.
“We weren’t getting much time on the shot clock to get our offense going and we were having to settle for shots where maybe we would have liked better ones, but we didn’t have time on the shot clock to get those opportunities,” McDaniel said.
The foul troubles eventually led to Dierra Diegel fouling out for Valley City.
Valley City worked to narrow the lead in the second half and got as close at 10 points, but McDaniel credited West Fargo with getting brief runs to match Valley City’s.
“We’d make a little run and they’d counter it right back,” McDaniel said. “They had a pretty nice lead and then we’d do something — we’d get a basket and then maybe we’d get another basket — they turn around and hit a three.
“Once they got that lead, they’d counter everything.”
Thorson led West Fargo with 18 points, shooting 3-9 from the floor and 10-11 at the free throw line. The Packers also had 10 points from Kaitlin Langerud and 11 from Baltezore.
Denholm and Dierra Diegel led Valley City with 11 points each and Madison Taylor had eight.
Though the loss was Valley City’s first of the season, McDaniel said he encouraged his team not to dwell on it as the girls continue Eastern Dakota Conference play Thursday with a game in Devils Lake.
Even with the loss, the Hi-Liners have among the top records in Class A and entered the game as one of two undefeated Class A teams in the state.
“This is only our third EDC game,” McDaniel said. “There’s 19 regular season games and we’ve got a lot more ahead of us. I didn’t expect us to be 6-0 from the start; I don’t think anyone else did either. Hey, now we’re 6-1, it’s still a great record. I still think we’re still doing a lot of positive and good things.
“We’re not going to let this one game against the top EDC opponent ruin what we’ve already done.”
West Fargo 68, VC girls 47
VC 17 30 — 47
WF 33 35 — 68
WF: Thorson 18, Baltezore 11
VC: Jessica Denholm 11, Dierra Diegel 11
Thursday @ Devils Lake, 7:30 p.m.