Vikings Pull Away to Beat Westlake in the Opening Round

We are part of The Trust Project

For most of Friday afternoon’s Class B girls’ playoff game, eighth-seeded Valhalla and ninth-seeded Westlake were neck and neck, neither able to take command on the scoreboard.

Brianna Ciocca of Valhalla takes the ball to the basket in Friday's playoff win over Westlake. Photo by Andy Jacobs
Brianna Ciocca of Valhalla takes the ball to the basket
in Friday’s playoff win over Westlake. Photo by Andy Jacobs

But early in the fourth quarter, the Vikings finally put their foot down and gained control. They went on a 12-0 run and the Wildcats never recovered. Host Valhalla went on to a 61-54 victory, earning an unenviable quarterfinal berth on Tuesday against top-seeded Irvington.

“I just think that our shots were falling more and every time that we would shoot our bigger girls would get the rebounds and put them back up,” Viking senior guard Rachele Beckley said afterwards. “And we stayed tough on defense to make their good shooters not make their shots.”

The Vikings’ decisive run started with a shot from long distance by Brandi Coon and then the tallest girl on the court took control. Brianna Ciocca, Valhalla’s senior center, scored six consecutive points in the span of a minute and a half, cleaning up the glass every time  a Viking shooter was off target.

“It’s a big advantage,” Valhalla coach Stephen Boyer said of having Ciocca on the court. “Offensively she struggled a little bit in the first half, missing some easy (shots). But give her credit, she didn’t get down on herself. Just told her they’re going to fall and keep working at it and she did and she came up big in the fourth quarter.”

By the time Westlake stopped the run, the Wildcats were trailing by double digits and only had a minute left to erase their largest deficit of the game. Westlake coach Sean Mayer said, in the end, his team, playing shorthanded with both Samantha Kane and Lauren Holzer out due to injury and two other players missing, simply ran out of gas.

“When you’re playing in this up-tempo game, I think our legs got to our shots a little bit,” Mayer said. “We got a little tired, but to their credit we hung in there. The whole game, we kept the pressure on them. I definitely think that this was one of our better games our girls played.”

Westlake could have folded in the third quarter when the Vikings widened their lead to 41-32 following a MaryRose Kelly steal and layup. But after Mayer called a timeout, the Wildcats responded by outscoring Valhalla 12-4 over the last 4:52 of the quarter. With sophomores Katie Cullen and Katie Schmid carrying the load, the Wildcats only trailed by a point heading to the fourth quarter.

Ultimately, Cullen finished with 20 points and Schmid added 13 points for the Wildcats, who nearly matched Valhalla basket for basket in a high scoring first quarter that featured seven 3-pointers and ended with the Vikings leading 22-19.

“It’s kind of scary,” said the Vikings’ Beckley, who finished with 12 points, “because on the other side of it they’re not missing their shots either.”

Eventually though, the Vikings’ advantage in experience may have decided the outcome. Valhalla’s roster includes seven seniors, while the Wildcats don’t have any.

“A little bit to the end,” said Boyer, “our seniors, which were mostly on the floor, took over a little bit.”







We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.