| Vanden opens league play with convincing win vs. Vallejo
The Vanden High School girls basketball team may be younger but the reigning Division II CIF State Champs didn’t skip a beat Thursday night versus visiting Vallejo High School.
The Vallejo Red Hawks (5-11, 0-1 Solano County Athletic Conference) were the first team to illuminate the scoreboard but the Lady Vikings (10-6, 1-0 SCAC) outshined the opposition to the tune of a 78-14 blowout.
Vanden seniors Myli Martinez and Deirdre Huff helped steer the helm to untroubled waters by scoring a combined 40 points on 17-of-27 shooting and accounted for six of the team’s eight three-pointers as they began their pursuit of a fourth consecutive league title.
Martinez, who scored a team-high 24 points on 71 percent shooting and managed to sink four-of-eight shots from long range, recorded four assists and three steals in the win. Huff contributed throughout the night with 16 points, a team-high five assists and three of Vanden’s 24 steals.
Weeks removed from a preseason packed with elite programs throughout the country such as Red Mountain (Arizona), Beaverton (Oregon), Rainier Beach (Washington), Dimond (Arkansas), and Prestonwood Christian (Texas), the seniors have played an integral role as leaders while the less experienced players have steadily progressed as a whole.
“We held our own against everyone but the less experienced players weren’t quite ready,” said Vanden co-head coach Jake Johnson. “It was important for our veterans to lead and our younger inexperienced players to follow throughout the preseason. Our vets have been getting it done in the preseason but our younger players have been learning a lot and are starting to come into their own.”
That was on display from tip-off to the final buzzer as sophomores Tyliyah Grady, Rayonni Mack, Jemai Bailey and Madison Crawford exemplified those strides against an improved Vallejo team.
Bailey scored 10 points, collected a team-high six rebounds and added two steals, while Grady registered four steals and accounted for four of Vanden’s 18 offensive boards. Mack shared a team-best five steals with junior starting guard Jenessa Herrera. Will C. Wood transfer Joia Armstrong also played important minutes.
After opening league play last season with only five girls able to suit up, Vallejo came with a full roster and played inspired basketball despite the frustrating but expected outcome.
“This is a much improved team compared to last year,” said Vanden co-head coach Allison Johnson. “I really like this team and they brought it all night. The score may not show it, but they are significantly better.”
Following a trio of missed three-pointers by Vanden during its first possession of the night, Vallejo’s Raven Powell drove to the cup and gave her team a momentary advantage. But the Lady Vikes’ full-court press made life difficult for the Red Hawks offense.
The Lady Vikings abruptly turned the deficit into a 20-2 run before taking a 23-6 lead into the second quarter. Vanden’s early cushion blossomed to a 45-6 advantage as they held Vallejo scoreless despite calling off the press in the final minutes of the half.
Vanden racked up a game-best 26 points in the third quarter but let the bench takeover in the final minutes en route to the commanding 78-14 win.
Although the pair of Vanden coaches have high expectations for this young team, coach Johnson knows they’ve got plenty of room for growth.
“They’re so young and I’m just happy they know it’s Thursday and we have a home game,” Allison joked. “They attach themselves to the tradition of Vanden but know that last year’s team is last year’s team. They know that this season is up to them and they have room to grow and are committed to that.”
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