Williams Valley Vikings top rival Bulldogs

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HEGINS - A zone defense can be difficult to deploy. But when done effectively, it's nearly impossible to crack.

The 2-3 zone run by Williams Valley in Monday night's 44-27, Schuylkill League Division II victory over Tri-Valley stifled the Bulldogs' offense, which was forced to take long-distance shots - shots that just weren't falling.

"The first two games of the season, we were in a little slump," Vikings coach Christina Thompson said. "We came back tonight and switched it up a little bit. We're more familiar with the 1-2-2 - we ran it last year in the press - and the girls responded."

Williams Valley's defense proved so difficult to beat, the defending PIAA Class A champion Bulldogs didn't get their first field goal until 6:14 remained in the second quarter, after Tri-Valley was outscored 11-2 in the first frame.

"We knew they lost two of their big girls, Tara Nahodil and Juli Weber, who were key to them winning last year," Williams Valley senior guard Cassidy Pinchorski said. "Other players had a big part in it, too, but we have our whole starting lineup back.

"We knew we had to get them in foul trouble, we had to make our shots and we'd be in good shape."

Pinchorski finished with a game-high 18 points, including a 3-pointer with just over six minutes to play that extended the Vikings' lead to 37-25, their first double-digit lead since they went up 13-3 in the second quarter.

Less than a minute later, Vikings forward Kate Whelski grabbed an offensive rebound on a Rayanne Hawk free-throw attempt, put it back in and was fouled, extending the Williams Valley lead to 44-25, its largest margin of the game.

"That was a huge play," Thompson said. "I tell the girls we can always rely on our defense and rebounding to keep us in the game. You don't have to shoot 10 shots a night, but you can still score 10 points a game just by rebounding."

Hawk finished with 10 points for the Vikings. Whelski totaled eight points, all in the second half.

Getting out-rebounded wasn't the only problem plaguing the Bulldogs. Tri-Valley committed seven turnovers in the first quarter, shooting 2-of-5 from the free-throw line in that frame.

"They handled the (first quarter) much better than we did," Tri-Valley coach Bob Felty said. "Look, the responsibility is always on the coach to have his team ready to play, and I didn't have us ready to play today. And we played accordingly."

The Vikings' zone defense continued to haunt the Dawgs, who failed to score more than four points all but one quarter.

"Unfortunately, we just didn't attack (the zone) the way we should have," Felty said. "We relied primarily on the outside shot, and we weren't making any outside shots.

"We've got to find ways to attack that zone and try to get into the interior of that zone better. And we just didn't do that tonight."

Tri-Valley tied the game twice - once at 19 before halftime, and again at 21 just after halftime.

Brianna Wiscount's layup with 32 seconds left in the half knotted the game for the first time. But Hawk hit a 5-foot jumper at the buzzer to give the Vikings the advantage at the intermission.

Wiscount again tied the game seconds into the third quarter after stealing the ball at mid-court and putting in an uncontested layup.

The Bulldogs (3-2, 1-1 D-II) didn't score again until over 4 ½ minutes later on a basket by Katie Dietrich, who finished with a team-high seven points.

The victory for Williams Valley (1-2, 1-1) couldn't have come at a better time, after suffering season-opening losses to Halifax and Minersville.

"It was a lot of soul-searching," Thompson said. "A lot of regrouping, team meetings. They even had a team sleep over Saturday night. I just wanted them to come together. I have a great group of athletes, it was all about just putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

"I know what they're capable of, it was just getting this first win. Fortunately, our first win came over Tri-Valley, which was a total boost in itself."

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