West Des Moines Valley rarely uses set plays. But the No. 2-rated Tigers find success with a frenzied pace.
Valley leads the state’s Class 5-A girls’ basketball teams in scoring with a 70.9-point average. The Tigers (7-0) are sixth overall among the state’s teams in scoring offense.
A pressure defense leads to steals. The four guards and a center race up the court, aiming for quick transitions and aggressive drives to the basket.
“It’s a free-for-all,” senior guard Whitney Fuller said. “It gives you a lot of freedom.”
Valley has scored 61 or more points in every game this season. Grace Vander Weide leads the team with an 18.6-point scoring average, followed by Madi Agey (12.6), and Hannah Fuller (11.7).
Second-year coach Joe Sigrist was dealt a team that had a solid crew of players who could handle the ball and shoot. He developed a system based on that — a version of the dribble drive offense used by No. 1-ranked college power Connecticut and other teams.
“The strength of our team was in our guards,” Sigrist said.
Freshman guard Hannah Fuller, Whitney’s sister, is one of the athletes seeing a lot of time on the court.
“Everyone gets to play,” Hannah said. “It’s a good feeling.”
There’s a family atmosphere, with three sets of sisters: Kasey and Jackie Feldt, Courtney and Casey Carr and the Fullers.
Valley emphasizes conditioning. That has helped the Tigers’ endurance.
“We tell our posts to keep running,” Whitney said. “They’re typically not as winded (as opponents).”
Free-throw shooting is emphasized, too. The Tigers are shooting 70.3percent from the line, the eighth-best average in Iowa this season.
Valley has picked up 79 steals.
“It shows our defense leads to our offense,” Hannah said. “Our hustling leads to scoring.”
The team’s ultimate goal is to reach the state tournament at Wells Fargo Arena. The players have T-shirts that read W4WF — working for Wells Fargo.
“This is what we’ve been working for, this is our dream,” Hannah said. “It’s what pushes us in practice.”
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Reilly Jacobson, Waukee
Jacobson scored 43 points in two victories in the past week. She had 17 points in Tuesday’s 77-54 triumph over Fort Dodge. The sophomore added 26 points in Friday’s 64-54 win over defending state champion Southeast Polk. She hit 10 of 11 free throws in that game.
Ames: Ryan Weiss hit a game-winning shot in overtime to lift the Little Cyclones to a 62-60 overtime win over Johnston Dec. 17. It was her only points of the game. Molly Sanders led Ames with 18 points.
Ankeny: Several 3-point sharpshooters are on the roster. Anna Patterson has made four of nine attempts (44.4 percent), Jordan Enga has sunk two of six tries and Ali Gibson has made her only attempt this season.
Ankeny Centennial: Jaali Winters scored all 22 of her points in the first half and Centennial beat Ankeny 57-24 Friday in the first girls’ basketball meeting between the schools. Winters, a junior center, scored eight points during Centennial’s 17-0 run during the first quarter.
Dowling Catholic: All-state center Audrey Faber appears to have made a great recovery from a sprained ankle. She scored 11 points in Tuesday’s win over Ankeny and 20 points in Friday’s victory against Johnston. She missed one game with the injury.
East: The Scarlets went into the holiday break with a 7-1 record. Arrica Daye has made a team-best 11 3-pointers in 26 attempts. Daye scored a team-high 17 points in Friday’s 64-31 win over Roosevelt, including a 3-of-4 night outside the 3-point arc.
Fort Dodge: Four players are averaging about 10 or more points this season. Tiana Mericle leads the balanced effort with a 12.6-point average. She’s also carrying a rebounding average of 10 a game this season.
Hoover: Mikayla Larson had a memorable night in Tuesday’s 50-40 win over Ottumwa. She pulled down a school record 20 rebounds, scored 25 points and had five steals. Larson is a senior guard.
Indianola: The Indians have won their last four games. Sophomore Maddie Glascock scored 11 points in a 69-44 win over Chariton Dec. 17. She added 13 more points in Friday’s 51-41 win over Ottumwa. Mollie Deskin scored 23 points in the two games.
Johnston: Taylor Joens’ college sport will be volleyball, but she’s having a fine basketball season, too. The senior forward scored 12 points and grabbed a team-best seven rebounds in Saturday’s 54-47 win over Ankeny Centennial. Joens will play volleyball at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.
Lincoln: Sa’Lisa Berry scored 20 points in Lincoln’s first win this season. The Railsplitters beat North 46-26 Dec. 17. Berry, a senior guard, hit four 3-pointers in the game. Lincoln returns to play Roosevelt on Jan. 3 following the holiday break.
Marshalltown: Kali Banks, a senior, scored a team-high 13 points in Saturday’s 44-30 non-conference win over Newton. Banks made five of six field-goal attempts in the game. She also had six rebounds and two steals.
Mason City: The Mohawks headed into the holiday break with a 5-1 record. Myah Mellman and Makenzie Meyer both scored 20 points in Friday’s 75-51 win over Fort Dodge. The scoring output was the team’s highest for the season.
North: The Polar Bears hope for improvement after going 0-9 entering the holidays. Sebrina Dixon leads the team with 44 rebounds. Shamekia James has a team-best seven assists and has 10 steals as well.
Ottumwa: Megan Black is the team’s leader in both scoring (8.0 points a game) and assists (22 total). Ottumwa hopes to end a three-game losing streak. The Bulldogs will play at East on Jan. 3 in the first game following break.
Roosevelt: Meredith Burkhall led the Roughriders to their first win of the season Friday. Roosevelt beat North 52-14. Burkhall scored 28 points, hitting 13 of 16 field-goal attempts. She also had 10 rebounds for a double-double.
Southeast Polk: The Rams fell to a pair of ranked teams during the past week. No. 2 Valley defeated Southeast Polk 61-48 Tuesday and No. 6 Waukee beat the Rams 64-54. Ashton Donels scored 26 points vs. Waukee.
Urbandale: Kennedy Kracht leads all scorers with 10.7 points a game. She’s also compiled totals of 39 rebounds and a team-best 12 blocked shots. Kracht posted totals of 10 points and six rebounds in Tuesday’s loss to Valley.
Valley: The Tigers rose to No. 2 in the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union’s rankings on Thursday. Hannah Fuller, a freshman guard, poured in 20 points in Friday’s 62-37 win over Urbandale. She sank four 3-pointers.
Waukee: The Warriors are off to a 6-0 start this season. The team beat defending Class 5-A state champion Southeast Polk 64-54 Friday. Reilly Jacobson scored 26 points and Taylor Wingert added 20.
East 3-0 6-1
Indianola 3-0 6-2
Hoover 3-1 4-4
Ottumwa 1-2 1-6
Roosevelt 1-3 1-7
Lincoln 1-3 1-7
North 0-3 0-9
Conf. Div. All
Waukee 2-0 2-0 6-0
Ankeny Cent. 2-0 1-1 6-2
Southeast Polk 1-1 1-1 4-4
Ankeny 0-2 0-2 1-6
Conf. Div. All
Ames 2-0 0-1 6-1
Mason City 0-1 2-0 6-1
Fort Dodge 0-2 1-1 4-3
Marshalltown 0-2 0-1 3-5
Conf. Div. All
Valley 2-0 2-0 7-0
Dowling Cath. 2-0 1-1 5-1
Urbandale 0-1 1-1 2-5
Johnston 0-2 1-1 4-4
FRIDAY, JAN. 3
6:15–Fort Dodge at Ankeny
6:15–Dowling at Ankeny Centennial
6:15–Ottumwa at East
6:15–Lincoln at Roosevelt
6:15–Johnston at Mason City
6:15–Indianola at North
6:15–Marshalltown at Southeast Polk
6:15–Urbandale at Waukee
SATURDAY, JAN. 4
1:00–Valley at Ames
1:30–Dowling at East