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The Valley Heights girls tear through Alma sub-state. Back to state for the 4th time in 5 years.

For the Valley Heights girls, it had been 360 days since a loss to Riverside ended a run of state tournament berths. 360 days to get stronger, to get a better understanding of the game and to put away the thoughts of last year's sub-state loss to Riverside, a game in which they had their opportunities but fell short.

360 days later, the Lady Mustangs were back in sub-state action and ready to put that behind them. They had gotten through the rigors of the Twin Valley League earning them the top seed at the Alma-Wabaunsee sub-state.

After a dominating first round win on their home court against Republic County, Valley Heights hit the road taking on the 4 seed Bennington. The Mustang defense came to play against the Bulldogs, forcing 8 turnovers to open a 7-0 lead to begin the game and end the quarter at 11-2. It was the 2nd quarter where Valley Heights hit the accelerator offensively led by Ava Smith with 11 of her 13 points coming before the break and Valley Heights would hold Bennington at arm's length for the rest of the game with a lead of at least 15 the rest of the way as they advanced easily, 53-29.

Saturday's sub-state final against Wabaunsee came with a bit more difficulty than the previous two. From the jump, neither team was willing to give an inch, going possession for possession with one another, until the Purple and White would see a little bit of an opening thanks to 3 straight turnovers and getting 7 points. The teams went to the locker room deadlocked at 23 but with Heights on a bit of a roll. Hindsight being 20/20, the halftime break may not have come at the best time for Heights as they had just caught a solid groove. In the third, Wabaunsee was able to hold the opponent to just 6 points in the quarter and with just one quarter left, the Chargers looked like they were going to move on.

But again, the Lady Mustangs didn't waver. A Senior led squad didn't blink, trailing by as many as 7 it almost seemed like it fired the team up more. They weren't going to quit and Wabaunsee knew it. The 4th quarter had to be seen to be believed. With some of the top players in foul trouble going into the quarter, it was going to be on players like Olivia Skalla and Ava Smith to take over and take over they did. The Mustangs worked and worked and suddenly what was a grim deficit turned to just 7. Then it happened. Ava Smith knocked down a key three pointer and the Valley Heights student section went crazy. From there, the defense forced a pair of violations and Mia Vermetten buried a triple of her own to make it just one. The final dagger came from Delana Murk and the comeback was complete and the celebration was on. After some game clinching free throws the final horn sounded and Valley Heights defeated Wabaunsee 51-45. Ava Smith led the team with 13 points, while 11 each came from Murk and Vermetten.

I want to say Valley Heights earned this win but, "Earn" might not even be a strong enough word for what the Lady Mustangs did in this game. The Lady Mustangs take the court in Dodge City at the 2A tournament as the 8 seed taking on top seed Leoti-Wichita County.

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