With a 48-28 win over Dutch Fork on Monday in the Class 4A Upper State final, the Spring Valley Vikings earned their first bid at a state championship since 2011.
“This team has come together and we’re playing with confidence now,” Vikings coach Anne Long said. “We’re just fortunate to be able to be in the state finals again.”
Meeting for the third time this season, the Vikings and Silver Foxes knew this game would be far different from their two regular season matchups. After winning both games in the Region 4 series, the Vikings (25-4) knew they would have to hit the court better than ever to stop Dutch Fork for a third time.
“A team the quality of Dutch Fork, we knew we had to throw a little something different at them to get an edge, and I think our defense did it for us tonight,” Long said.
The Vikings held Dutch Fork’s offense to nine field goals.
“In this game, we were both real familiar with each other, and they found a way to stop our two scorers, and the rest of us couldn’t put it in the basket,” Dutch Fork coach Faye Norris said.
The Vikings got the strong start they needed, with Christian Hithe and Akia Dunlap lighting up the scoreboard in the first quarter. Hithe scored of 15 her game-leading 22 points in the first half, helping the Vikings to a 27-17 halftime lead.
The second half started with a defensive standoff, as Dutch Fork’s Jayla Eskew and Spring Valley’s Shantay Taylor traded blocks and rebounds in the post in the opening minutes. Dunlap got the Vikings over that hump with her third 3-pointer of the game to pad Spring Valley’s lead.
Six free throws from Morgan Williams helped the Silver Foxes get their deficit back to eight points after almost five minutes, despite Dutch Fork going scoreless from the floor in the period.
Senior forward Morgan Williams was the Silver Foxes’ lone scorer in the final period. She scored 11 points to lead the Silver Foxes.
“She did a lot,” Norris said. “They put a lot of bodies on her down there, and she was still trying to score, trying to make contact, trying to get it done for us. She did what her coach asked her to do.”
Back-to-back buckets from the Vikings put the score at 35-23 going into the final period. Spring Valley was leading by 20 late in the fourth when Dutch Fork made its first field goal of the half, a layup from Williams with 2:43 left.
“I’m just proud of our region, that No. 1 and No. 2 were able to make it to the semifinals,” Norris said. “That says a lot about our region.”
The Silver Foxes’ state title streak ends at three, but Norris is looking forward to returning key players such as Olivia Anderson and Darian Dean for next season’s campaign.
DF: Morgan Williams 11, Daniel 8, Anderson 2, Green 7. SV: Akia Dunlap 13, Shantay Taylor 13, Christian Hithe 22.