It was hard to pick out what was most impressive about the Pleasant Valley girls basketball team on Friday night against Davenport North.
The eighth-ranked team in Class 5A did very little wrong in dismantling a good Wildcats team, 65-36, in a Mississippi Athletic Conference contest on the Spartans' home floor.
Pleasant Valley (18-1 overall, 15-1 in MAC) buried 12 3-pointers, recorded 15 assists on 23 made field goals, forced 21 turnovers and turned those turnovers into 26 points. It added up to very little room to breathe for the visiting Wildcats (11-7, 10-6).
Spartans head coach Jennifer Goetz said seeing how many assists her team racked up made her most proud.
"That's awesome," Goetz said of the assists. "Those are things that are a staple of our program. We want to pass the ball and find open teammates, and 15 assists on 23 field goals is a great number. It shows how unselfish we are."
As for the defense, Pleasant Valley used a full-court press and aggressive zone defense to fluster the Wildcats. North turned the ball over 14 times in the first half, and PV turned those miscues into 20 points.
Kira Arthofer and Carli Spelhaug were particularly dangerous for the Spartans on the top of the zone defense and in the full-court press traps. Arthofer had 11 points and five steals. Eight of her points came on layups after PV forced a turnover.
Spelhaug had four steals and numerous other deflections of her own. Spelhaug was also part of the long-distance operation, nailing three 3-pointers to finish with 11 points.
Of the 21 turnovers the home team forced, 12 were steals that led to break-out baskets.
"Our biggest thing is that transition off those turnovers, and when we get out into the open court, we are a good basketball team," Goetz said. "Kira and Carli were just outstanding because they create so much havoc. That was a huge positive for us as well."
Ellie Spelhaug poured in 23 points for the Spartans, and Rory Donahue nailed a pair of 3-pointers but also controlled the glass for PV with a game-high nine rebounds. Grace Budde was also on from the outside for the hosts with a pair of 3-pointers.
Pleasant Valley led 33-17 at halftime and 48-30 after the third quarter. The Spartans eventually were up by 30 midway through the fourth quarter before both teams emptied their benches.
For the Wildcats, Reese Ranum led the way with nine points and a team-high seven rebounds. Sophomore Lindsey Broders had a solid game for the visitors, scoring eight points and snagging five rebounds. All eight of Broders' points came after she fought off two defenders in the lane to score.
Paige Bradford had eight points for the Wildcats in the first half but did not play in the second half. When asked if Bradford was hurt, North coach Matt Hoeppner said Bradford was not hurt and said it was the coach's decision to not play the senior post player the last two quarters. Hoeppner declined to comment on the situation beyond that.
What Hoeppner did say was his team will keep fighting as the season winds down. There is a good chance the Wildcats will be right back in the Spartans' gym to face PV in regional play.
"We don't back down; we keep coming, and that's the way we've played all season," Hoeppner said. "I can't complain about that part. I've asked them to do that before the season even started. I've said, 'Hey, this is what we are doing.' We've come back and won some games that way. It's just a matter of us to keep fighting, and we will see what happens."