|Staff photo by Brad Spahr/Great Valley's Kim Hooven drives to the basket during Thursday's Ches-Mont American Division contest at Oxford.|
By BRAD SPAHR
EAST NOTTINGHAM -- It’s been a roller coaster ride through the Ches-Mont League this season for the Great Valley High School girls basketball team.
The Patriots had a hold on sole possession of first place in the American Division for a good part of the first half of the league campaign. Then they suddenly dropped to third in the standings. Now they are back up to second place and find themselves in an all-out fight to not only win the division title, but to also finish in one of the top two spots to qualify for the Ches-Mont Final Four Tournament.
The Patriots know what’s at stake in the final stretch of the season, and ever since dropping three straight earlier this month they have come back swinging in a big way. On Thursday night, Great Valley won its fourth game in a row by defeating host Oxford, 39-25, in a key American Division tussle.
Great Valley (8-2 American, 11-6 overall) trails division-leading West Chester Rustin (9-1) by one game in the standings, and each team has two league tilts remaining. Great Valley, which lost to Rustin 51-41 in their first meeting, will host the Golden Knights on Tuesday in a showdown for first place. Sun Valley (8-3), which sits in third, is hot on the heels of the Patriots for the second spot in the division, though, so they can’t afford to slip up.
"We want to make the [Ches-Mont Final Four] extremely bad," said Great Valley senior forward Maddie Buettner, who scored six points. "This was a very important win for us to get. We saw that Oxford had beaten Downingtown East recently, and we knew we had to play our best against them.
"We had been in a little slump, but lately we are really playing well. Our defense has been coming up big, and we know we are going to have to continue to play well on that end of the floor from here on out."
Great Valley received a game-high 13 points from junior guard Danielle DiSanto, which included three 3-pointers. Senior guard Kim Hooven added 11 points, and senior center Danielle Strang finished with five.
Oxford (5-5, 10-10), which came into the contest red-hot on a five-game winning streak, pulled out to an early 9-8 lead after the first quarter of play as junior guard Alex Fernandez netted five of her team-high eight points in the period.
However, the Hornets went ice-cold offensively from there, thanks to a terrific defensive effort by Great Valley.
"We were kind of hoping to play the role of spoiler," said first-year Oxford coach Matt Messick. "This was a tough game for us. We had won five straight, but tonight I think we were just on our heels a little bit too much."
The Hornets, who also got strong games from Melanie Kempf (six points) and Meghan O’Conner (five points), have improved their win total already this season by six games after going just 4-18 last year. They’ll close out the season with two tough league contests against Sun Valley and Rustin.
"We’ll see what we can do," said Messick. "The girls would be real excited if we could get a district playoff game."
Great Valley was fantastic in the second quarter. The Patriots went into it down by one, but opened the period on a 9-0 run, holding the Hornets scoreless for the first five minutes of the frame. Freshman guard Ashlyn Smith and Hooven both had four points in the quarter, during which the Patriots outscored Oxford by an 11-2 margin to seize a 19-11 halftime lead.
They were equally as good in the third quarter, with DiSanto knocking down a pair of 3-pointers to help her team up the lead to 33-17 after the period.
"From the second quarter on we were much more energetic," said Great Valley coach Alex Venarchik. "We made a lot of our shots, but the big key for us is we did a great job of keeping them off the boards.
"We went through a little lull there for a while, but the girls have really been fighting the second half of the season."
Great Valley 39, Oxford 25
GREAT VALLEY: Hooven 5 0-0 11, Strang 1 3-4 5, Walsh 0 0-0 0, Buettner 3 0-0 6, DiSanto 4 2-2 13, Smith 2 0-0 4. Totals: 15 5-6 39.
OXFORD: O’Connor 2 1-2 5, Fernandez 3 0-0 8, Kempf 3 0-2 6, Hostetter 1 0-0 2, Hamilton 1 2-2 4. Totals: 10 3-6 25.
Great Valley 8 11 14 6 -- 39
Oxford 9 2 6 8 -- 25
3-point goals: Hooven, DiSanto 3, Fernandez 2.