Spring Valley ends Capital's Cinderella run
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Once Spring Valley was comfortable Wednesday night, it was nearly unstoppable.
The Timberwolves' inside presence, combined with a tidal wave of pressure defense, overwhelmed Capital in an 84-60 victory in the opening round of Class AAA at the Charleston Civic Center.
Top-seeded Spring Valley (23-3), which advanced to states for the first time since 2003, will square off with the No. 4 Princeton-No. 5 Logan winner at 5:30 p.m. Friday in the semifinals. Princeton and Logan tangle at 11:15 a.m. today.
Timberwolves sophomore guard Sarah Kelly turned in a triple-double with 20 points on 6 of 11 shooting and 7 of 8 accuracy at the free-throw line, 12 assists and 10 steals, which set a single-game record. The old mark of nine steals was held by four different players and last achieved in 2009.
Sophomore post Madison Morris poured in 27 points on 12 of 22 shooting with 15 rebounds for Spring Valley, while sophomore forward Brooke Heck added 16 points, eight rebounds and five steals. The Timberwolves' most glaring advantage came in the paint, where they held a 50-24 scoring edge.
"I think after we got our nervousness out, we were good,'' said Morris. "We played our game, getting the ball out and pushing it down the floor for fast breaks.''
Capital (10-14), which had the only losing record among the other 23 teams in all three classes, upset No. 1, undefeated and defending state champion Greenbrier East in last week's regional co-finals. The Cougars lost to Spring Valley by 30 points (70-40) during the regular season.
The Cougars hadn't been to states since Alexis Hornbuckle and Renee Montgomery led them to the last of back-to-back titles in 2002.
"I'm extremely proud of the ladies,'' said Capital coach B.J. Calabrese. "At the beginning of the year, I don't think anybody other than the coaching staff gave us a good chance of ending up at the state tournament.
"The kids kept working every single day. [Winning at Greenbrier East] meant an awful lot to the program. That's what we have to do. We're trying to build this program and we've got to take it step by step.''
Senior guard Keke Walker notched 25 points, hitting five 3-pointers, and contributed six boards and six steals for Capital. Senior guard Khadijah Lee chipped in 19 points, six rebounds and five assists.
The Cougars hung in for most of the opening half, taking a 25-22 lead with 3:48 left in the second quarter. Lee's three-point play on a layup and free throw gave the Cougars' their first advantage at 23-20 with 4:52 to go in the half.
Spring Valley, though, answered with a 13-0 run to forge in front 35-25 just before intermission and was never threatened again. Kelly tallied six straight points on three foul shots and a 3 during the surge.
"We didn't come out and play very good in the first half,'' said Spring Valley coach Bo Miller, who saw his squad shoot 39.3 percent in the opening half with 13 turnovers. "I think we settled down a little bit with nerves. It's new to these girls. We just relaxed. Once we settled down, I thought we played pretty good.''
The Timberwolves picked up right where they left off in the third quarter with a 12-5 run for a 15-point bulge (47-32) with 4:29 left, thanks in large part to making every Cougars' inbound play difficult. Spring Valley was comfortably sitting on a 59-40 advantage as the final period started.
"Things really got away from us real quick,'' said Calabrese, whose team turned the ball over 27 times. "We're up three late [in the second quarter] and you're thinking, 'Let's just finish the quarter strong and you're going to go in with the lead.' A few mistakes on both ends that I thought really, really cost us. It really snowballed on us. [Spring Valley has] done that to a lot of people.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.