Pick an object: broad side of a barn. The ocean. For whatever reason, the Valley Christian girls basketball team couldn't hit anything beyond the rim with a basketball on Saturday night in the Division III state championship game.
A perfect season to date ended with a hiccup, as the previously-undefeated Trojans couldn't hit the shots they'd made every night for the previous three months, couldn't contain Fountain Hills' interior play, and couldn't get their bearings in a 51-36 loss to Fountain Hills at Jobing.com Arena.
The last game of the season was the first loss of the season. Even Alyssa Braun was victim to a flying elbow while going for a rebound and got whacked in the head, and appeared to suffer a concussion.
It was that kind of night.
"I hope next year we have our bad game a little earlier," Trojans coach Scott Timmer said.
So the team's sense of humor was intact afterward, as was the reality that every person on the roster will return next season. The Trojans' lineup, in fact, was three juniors and two sophomores, and an entire bench composed of freshman.
Since this was the third meeting of the season between these two teams - Valley Christian won the previous two - Timmer thought he needed to do a better job of showing new plays and wrinkles, though even when Valley Christian had open shots they didn't fall. The Trojans also had a difficult turnaround after a physical, close victory against Window Rock in the semifinals on Friday night.
"It's hard to tell," he said of the shooting struggle. "I was pretty happy with the way we looked in the locker room and pregame. ... Maybe we weren't ready, but give Fountain Hills credit because they knew us well and they made their shots. They were good."
It was 11-10 after the first quarter, but then the proverbial wheels came off in the second, a quarter which had previously been a boon for the Trojans (33-1). Fountain Hills used its size and drove the lane for easy baskets and second-chance points. The Trojans kept shooting, but never pulled within single digits after the midpoint of the second quarter and trailed 30-17 at halftime.
Things only went further south from there as the Fountain Hills lead grew to 20 points during the second half.
Mara Kemmer led Valley Christian with 11 points and Ashley Koch had seven.
Still, the bitter ending didn't darken what appears to be a bright future, not to mention a relatively drama-free 33-game winning streak.
"We'll celebrate this for a month and next year try and come back and get one more," Timmer said. "The last (game) is always the toughest."
No. 7 Fountain Hills 51, No. 1 Valley Christian 36
FH 11 19 12 9 -- 51
VC 10 7 5 12 -- 36
VC: Megan Timmer 6, Mara Kemmer 11, Kaitlyn Bellerson 2, Bethany Wolph 5, Ashley Koch 7, Angie Andreas 3.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune assistant managing editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.