VALE – They’ve done it with defense.
The Vale boys defeated Burns, 58-46, to finish the regular season with an 8-2 league mark. The Vale girls varsity basketball team overcame Burns, 42-32, to end the season undefeated in Eastern Oregon League play. The Lady Viks’ recorded a perfect 10-0 league record and are 21-2 overall.
Both Viking squads will host playoff games Saturday, Feb. 17, though the time and the opponents were not known at press time.
For each team an emphasis on defensive play helped produce a successful season but experience and chemistry also proved to be key, players and coaches said.
“It is an old adage but defense wins championships and I believe that,” said
Randy Seals, Vale girls varsity coach.
A quick glance at the Lady Viks’ 2023-2024 record puts their season in perspective.
As of this week, Vale is 20-2 overall and undefeated in Eastern Oregon League play with a 9-0 record.
They haven’t lost since Jan. 2, when La Grande edged Vale 43-42, and are on a 12-game win streak.
The Lady Viks’ are a team of role players, said senior Hailey Cleaver.
“We struggled at the beginning a little bit to know our roles but that worked itself out. Now, we all have a role and we know it,” said Cleaver.
Cleaver said defensive play led to the long string of victories.
“We really focus on it and going back to fundamentals,” said Cleaver.
Senior Halle Peterson said the Vikings’ unrelenting pressure on defense is crucial. Yet she also pointed to another element of the Vale game plan.
“Our offense has really figured itself out this year,” she said.
For Seals, the chemistry of his team stands out.
“They’ve come together. They play hard. This year every one of them is a year older and wiser and they’ve just really bought into the team concept. We don’t really have any unselfish players,” said Seals.
Vale is ranked No. 5 by the Oregon School Activities Association.
While hobbled early by injuries to key players and a tough pre-season schedule, the Vale boys varsity basketball team as of Friday had a 14-8 overall record and 7-2 league mark in coach Todd Gregory’s first year.
Gregory said his team has a deep well of hardwood experience.
“We are pretty senior heavy,” he said.
Gregory said the Vale players were compelled to learn a new offensive system
“It was a new coach, new system for them. So, it took a little bit of time to adjust to that,” he said.
That adjustment period included a grueling December schedule where the boys team lost the opening two games and finished the month 6-6.
Then the Vikings stormed out of the regular season gate, winning seven-straight before back-to-back losses last weekend to Riverside and Umatilla.
“We are pretty well-rounded,” said senior Colten Stepleton.
Stepleton, who sat out part of the early season because of a separated shouldered from football season, said there isn’t one factor to explain the Viking’s success this season.
“It’s a combo of things. You know, more veteran experience, being more consistent on defense,’ he said.
Six-foot-seven senior Diesel Johnson also noted Vale “just has some athletes.”
“We just distribute the ball well and whoever is hot, gets the ball,” he said.
Senior Brooks Haueter noted the Viking’s experience and familiarity as important to their success.
“We’ve been playing together for a long time,” he said.
Senior Luke McGourty said Vale’s “size and athleticism” are two important elements to success.
“We have good players that complement each other,” he said.
The Vikings are ranked No. 7 by the Oregon School Activities Association.
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]
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