Capturing the WQLV crown

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HEGINS - The last time Tri-Valley and Williams Valley met in mid-December, a Vikings' victory sent the Bulldogs on a four-game losing skid.

When the two teams met in the WQLV Holiday Tournament championship game Dec. 28 at Tri-Valley High School, the Dawgs knew they had a great shot at redemption.

Behind 13 points by both senior Brittany Smeltz and junior Taryn Wilson, Tri-Valley avenged its earlier loss and claimed the tournament crown with a 54-38 victory over the Vikings.

"They're a really good team, and we had to respect them because they won the first one," Smeltz said of Williams Valley. "But we wanted to come out and win this one."

Smeltz not only caused problems for the Vikings because of her scoring Saturday night, but also for her abilities on defense.

"I'm mostly a defender," she said. "I just tried to take shots because I want to work on those. And it worked out."

Added Tri-Valley coach Bob Felty: "She's a tremendous on-the-ball defender. She just gave their point guards fits all night. She has really embraced that role and she is a monster on the ball."

Williams Valley began threatening the Bulldogs' nine-point halftime lead in the third quarter when another Tri-Valley senior answered the call.

Kylie Spickler, by her own admission, didn't have a good first half Saturday. She landed on the bench after a couple second-quarter mistakes.

But a senior with her experience can't be counted out. With 2 minutes, 30 seconds left in the third quarter, she drove the right side of the paint, hit a contested layup, earned a trip to the foul line and converted the free throw to extend Tri-Valley's lead to 11 points - it's largest at the time.

"I never want to let my team down," Spickler said. "They mean a lot to me. I want to play to the best of my ability all the time. And the first half, I just wasn't doing it. I knew I had to bounce back."

Added Felty: "I got into Kylie a little bit (in the second quarter), which, unfortunately, I do occasionally. And she responded like a senior leader should."

Williams Valley never got within single digits again. The Dawgs extended their lead to 21 points (47-26) with 6 and a half minutes to play on a Smeltz free throw.

Just before that, both Spickler and senior Brianna Wiscount had steals that led to layups.

During that stretch, it was as if Tri-Valley never struggled with the Vikings' zone defense this season - as they did mightily in their first meeting Dec. 16, which Williams Valley won 44-27.

"Our defensive intensity wasn't the same as it was the first time we played them," Vikings coach Christina Thompson said. "That's something we need to work on as a team and as a coaching staff. ... Kudos to (Tri-Valley) for being well prepared and attacking the zone unlike they did the first time."

The Bulldogs finished both the first and second quarters with buzzer-beating 3-point field goals. Wilson hit a jumper from the right corner, while Katie Dietrich - who finished with 10 points - sank one from near the point just before halftime.

"We're still figuring out how to play with each other, learning to trust one another," Felty said. "I would expect us, as the season goes on, to get better and improve. We saw a little bit of that.

"But I give credit to our girls for just playing much harder this time, in my opinion."

Despite taking control of the game near the end of the third quarter, Tri-Valley still committed some turnovers and fouls in the fourth quarter that gave the Vikings - particularly sophomore forward Kate Whelski, who had 11 of her 16 points in the final frame - opportunities to get to the basket.

But those kind of mistakes can be more bearable when the offense sticks to the plan.

"We're far from a perfect team," Felty said. "We make a lot of mistakes. But you can make up for your mistakes when you just play really hard and follow the game plan. Today, we did a great job of battling through the mistakes we were making."

The victory for Tri-Valley (5-5) was the ninth time in the last 10 years the Bulldogs have won the WQLV Holiday Tournament. They did not participate last season due to games scheduled out of state.

Williams Valley's loss snapped a four-game winning streak that started with the Vikings' victory over Tri-Valley earlier this month.

U. Dauphin 51

Millersburg 39

HEGINS - Mackenzie Miller scored 27 points and went 5-for-6 from the free-throw line and teammate Taylor Brown added 13 points as Upper Dauphin beat Millersburg in the WQLV consolation game.

Brooke Shomper scored 12 points for the Indians.

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