Valley Vista overwhelms Horizon early

Valley Vista’s Terysha Banner (#2) is fouled while attempting a shot against Horizon Friday, Feb. 17, 2017 at Valley Vista High School in Surprise. (Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps)

Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

In a Friday night 6A girls basketball quarterfinal that never felt like a pitched playoff battle, Valley Vista never let a young Phoenix Horizon team believe it had a chance for an upset.

The Monsoon jumped out to a 11-0 lead, and built advantages of 23-7, 41-22 and 55-27, respectively, at the end of the first three quarters. That was the plan, Valley Vista Coach Rachel Matakas said.

“That was definitely our goal. We were challenging them constantly on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball,” Coach Matakas said. “We wanted to play solid man-to-man defense and play together. We kept it simple.”

No. 3 Valley Vista (21-6) finished a workmanlike 69-41 rout with the five starters combining for 68 of those points. More impressive was the balance the home team displayed with four starters scoring in double figures and the fifth just missing.

That was senior forward Miyah Ursery and her team began determined to feed her in the post — all eight of Ursery’s points came in the opening six minutes.

Her contribution, combined with the continued maturation of junior guards Terysha Banner (15 points) and Clarissa Rodarte (16 points), gives the team a multi-faceted offense less reliant on starts Kiara Edwards and Taylor Chavez.

“I think we really felt this is our year and this is our game. We came out with intensity and had so much grit on the court,” Ursery said.

Valley Vista’s Taylor Chavez (#3) makes a layup against Horizon Friday, Feb. 17, 2017 at Valley Vista High School in Surprise. (Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps)

Valley Vista will need that unpredictability as the scene shifts to Gila River Arena Thursday afternoon with a target squarely on their backs.

The Monsoon always believed they were the favorites at full — or close to full — strength. Friday night’s 60-56 upset of No. 10 Phoenix Mountain Pointe at No. 2 and defending champion Chandler Hamilton removed most opposing viewpoints.

“I don’t know if we ever thought we were the favorite … we knew we were the favorite,” Coach Matakas said. “We respect everybody and won’t overlook anybody. Mountain Pointe is a great team. They took us down to the wire at the beginning of the year. They’re a complete team and are on the rise with a great coach leading them.”

The Monsoon squeezed by Mountain Pointe on the road 69-67 in early December. Since then the team has been battered by injuries and off-court turmoil.

But Coach Matakas and her players said the struggles brought this team closer together and injuries to Edwards and Lauryn Satterwhite, who did not play Friday, forced players to adopt bigger roles.

“We started off the season kind of slow with Kiara and Taylor taking the majority of the shots. But throughout the season everyone else built confidence — with the injuries and stuff. That really is helping us in the playoff run because everybody’s effective. They can’t double team Kiara or Taylor because  they’re going to kick it to Clarissa or me or we’re going to dish it to Maya in the post,” Banner said.

Chavez (17 points, four assists) and Edwards (12 points, 14 rebounds) hardly had off nights in the quarterfinal.

Horizon’s scoring came from four sophomores, two juniors and a freshman. Sophomore wings Alyssa Alvarez (18 points) and Jacey Carter (10 points) were the bulk of the attack.

Valley Vista had that kind of team a couple years ago. Now, the Monsoon has a veteran squad focused on getting to — and winning — its first state final.

“It was our last home game and we brought the intensity. But we’ve got to bring it at the arena too,” Rodarte said.

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