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River Valley girls cruise past Lincoln
Falcons' depth key to team's success
With 10 of the 14 players on the roster being seniors, River Valley High's girls basketball team has leaned heavily on its veteran leadership this season, and it's easy to see why.
The tandem of Aleqse Hawkins and Amrita Dale make for a solid backcourt; Taylor Massengale and Sarah Brennan are a pain for opponents in the paint; and with a host of other seniors contributing, coach Tom Zaragoza has had the luxury of sitting back and playing his entire team nearly each night.
But while the seniors will no doubt be the ones to do the bulk of the heavy lifting when the Falcons begin Tri-County Conference play next week, on Thursday night, it was a pair of junior forwards who stepped up and led River Valley to victory.
Jagreet Gosal scored a team-high 12 points to go with seven rebounds and three steals in her second start of the year, and Ashlie Millington chipped in with eight points and nine rebounds off the bench to help propel RV to an easy 47-29 nonleague win over Lincoln at Falcon Gymnasium.
The victory pushed the Falcons' record to 10-5 on the year, but that mark could be even better. River Valley has lost two games on buzzer-beaters and three of its five losses have come by two points or less.
Depth has been the key so far, and Thursday night's game was no different.
"We don't have a superstar, but we have 14 girls who can step up each night and that's what we need," Zaragoza said. "Tonight, Millington had a great game and did a good job doing all the little things, and Jagreet shows a lot of leadership even as a junior.
"Those two right there should be our leaders next year."
River Valley took a 15-13 lead at the end of the first period and took control of the game by outscoring the Fighting Zebras 19-8 in the second behind eight points from Gosal inside.
And although the Falcons struggled to find their shooting touch in the second half, their defense did its part by limiting Lincoln (7-6) to eight points after the break, including just one point in the fourth period.
"It was my second start of the year, so it was a little bit of a surprise," Gosal said. "We're a very close team and we have everything down, we just need to finish our shots."
Once again, every player saw court time for River Valley, and eight of them ended up finding the scoring column.
"We have a good group of 14 girls and we always play our hardest," said Millington, who helped out on the glass and hit the floor for several loose balls in the game. "We all gel together, it doesn't matter who's out there on the court."
Massengale ended the night with eight points, six rebounds and three steals, and Dale chipped in with six points, three assists and a pair of steals in the victory. Hawkins added two points, six assists and four steals while fighting through foul trouble, and fellow senior Danielle Soba finished with six points.
River Valley will wrap up its nonleague slate against Granite Bay at home on Tuesday before welcoming Pioneer into town for the conference opener on Friday.
The Falcons finished second to Inderkum in the TCC last year while reaching the playoffs for the first time, and Zaragoza feels the Tigers will once again be the team to beat this season.
"We match up with everyone on paper," he said, "but Inderkum is the defending champion so everything goes through them."