It was a true test for this year's Valley Vista girls who have developed a great deal as a team this season under the tremendous leadership of head coach Rachel Matakas. After playing inconsistent basketball throughout the season, the Monsoon would put together one of their best performances of the season on Wednesday evening and when it counted - in the first round of the Division-I State Playoffs.
The game would feature Pinnacle High School (19-10), last year's Division-I state championship runner-ups, taking on Valley Vista (18-11) on Pinnacle's home floor. The game would set the bar for Valley Vista - not due to the level of opponent, but due to the setting of this intense match-up - the first round of the state playoffs and against a strong girl's basketball program that went all the way last season.
Matakas would have her troops ready for this one, as the intense and fiery head coach would coach every possession on the floor, as she has done her entire coaching career. If you have not seen Matakas coach a game, it is a treat for any true basketball fan that loves the game of basketball and understands the importance of holding kids accountable. Matakas holds her players accountable for every possession and prepares for them for the game of life. As a result, the state playoffs would not change her game preparation for her team, but only take her intensity to another level. As a result, Valley Vista would look to put it all together when it counted, and for an opportunity to advance to the second round.
Valley Vista would jump out to an early lead in the game, 12-8, with 3:40 left to play in the first period after a basket inside by stellar 6-foot-2 freshman post Kiara Edwards. After a missed shot by Pinnacle, 5-foot-8 sophomore guard Jordenn Reibel would travel the length of the floor and convert a three-point play for her team after being fouled on a driving layup. Reibel's free-throw would make the score 15-8, Valley Vista. Then with 2 minutes to play in the first period, 5-foot-6 junior guard Peyton Chavez would knock down a three-pointer from the corner.
After another three-pointer at the buzzer by 5-foot-8 sophomore guard/forward Cerena Reeves, Valley Vista would take a comfortable 25 to 13 lead in the second period.
In the second period, Valley Vista would share the basketball and make numerous good plays as a team. Pinnacle would fight hard to close the gap and would outscore Valley 15 to 14 in the period. But Valley would take a 39-28 halftime lead after Reeves would get fouled on a jump shot just before the buzzer (0.4 seconds remaining) - converting 1 of 2 free-throws just before halftime.
In the third period, Valley Vista would get it going again in a big way. With 3:55 left to play in the third, athletic 5-foot-8 junior forward Jada Willingham would knock down a three-pointer, and then Kiara Edwards would get back to work inside for another basketball inside the paint to push Valley's lead to their biggest scoring margin, 50-31 - a 19-point advantage.
But Pinnacle would climb back and go on a 8-0 run. After a layup inside by 5-foot-7 freshman Cassidy Blaser, Pinnacle would make the score 50-39, but a driving basket at the buzzer by Willingham would make the score 52-39 in Valley's favor heading into the final period.
In the fourth, with Pinnacle looking to make another big run, 5-foot-11 sophomore forward Alexis Contreras would knock down a big three-pointer from the wing - stopping Pinnacle's momentum. Contreras would come up big all night for Valley Vista in one of her best performances of the season.
With 3:30 left to play in the game, Willingham would finish off the big road playoff victory with another driving layup - giving Valley a 59-42 lead late in the contest.
Valley would then cruise to a nice 65-46 playoff win over last year's state championship runner-ups - advancing to the second round where they will now face a talented Mountain Pointe team, again on the road.
Here are the results of the other girl's state playoff games that took place around the state in each class . . .