West Valley Basketball opened their season this past Saturday night to a rabid student section looking for a momentum building win. The Rams got off on the right track handing Southridge High their first loss of the season.

The game clocked in at one hour and 15 minutes, which is about as fast as a high school basketball game can go. A big reason for this was the low scoring by both teams. Two minutes into the fourth quarter and Southridge still only had eighteen points!

A big talking point in the pre-game was whether or not this West Valley team is too inexperienced to compete. But head coach Jon Kinloch was having none of it, "All these guys have grown up playing the AAU circuit, they're prepared for this level of basketball."

It's clear this West Valley team is not going to need seven or eight games to gel; so what did we learn from West Valley's opening contest?

Pump the Brakes

Against a team like Southridge, a team that was 1-19 in the previous season, West Valley did what they were supposed to do. For the most part, nothing good can happen when you're the heavy favorites playing at home. You either win like you're supposed to, or you get embarrassed for allowing it to be close, or worse actually losing.

The key for West Valley's success was suffocating Southridge the entire game with relentless full-court pressure defense. Southridge turned the ball over countless times right out the gate, they looked like they had mentally given up early.

We don't know if this defensive philosophy will work against the in-conference heavyweights coming up. But anytime you only allow 28 points on defense, you're going to raise the eyebrows of every team in the region.

Malachy Caffrey's got Next 

A lot was made of the departure of guards David Lindgren and Justin Van De Brake as they moved onto the college level. Who was going to be the next generation of featured guards?

Dallin Cluff was penciled in as one of the workhorse guards this year. But somebody else had to fill the voids too, and while Caffrey's name was whispered in the pre-season, it is now on full display. Caffrey was in the starting lineup for West Valley's first game and finished with 12 points.

What stood out about Caffrey's perfomance was the aura of confidence he possesses. Sure he's only a 5-10 140lb sophomore on paper, but on the court he is an alpha dog. There were times he would take it the hoop with four Southridge jersey's crashing in on him, and he would make it!

Malachi Caffrey wasn't afraid of the spotlight. Pencil this man in as a regular, he's someone West Valley can trust.

Power Forward Alex Rojas Held his Own 

There was concern going into the season as to whether or not West Valley could thrive without a true big man. 6-10 sophomore Conner Turner fits the prototypical mold of a center, but is currently out with a ankle stress fracture. West Valley doesn't know when Turner will be ready, and it might be in the team's best interest to save him for the next two seasons.

Because of the current situation, there is massive pressure on 6-5 250lb Alex Rojas to perform game in and game out. So far so good. Rojas finished with just four points, but his physical presence one the floor was undeniable.

Outside of Rojas the only other listed big men are Isaac McDonald and Spencer Jolley. However McDonald's game thrives on the three ball more than his physicality in the paint. And Jolley at 6-1 simply can't be a full-time center.

A surprise in this game was the debut of Coach Jon Kinloch's 6-3 freshman son Logan Kinloch. A young center that looks poised to be the 6-7 force his Dad was in his playing days. But even if Kinloch does emerge as a regular player, Rojas is still going to be a make or break player for West Valley this season.

Final Thoughts

As it goes with first games, there's a lot to clean up. While West Valley did force lots of turnovers, but they weren't exactly taking care of the ball the whole time either.

Senior PG Dallin Cluff played with uber-confidence scoring 12 points while leading the team in shot attempts. Him and Caffrey form a backcourt duo that knows how to create their own shots.

Senior captain Spencer Bailey finished with four points, but  based on his track record he is capable of breaking out any game now.

6-2 center Isaac McDonald hit a couple threes early that gave West Valley momentum that they would never let go of. If McDonald can do that on a consistent basis it will take the pressure off the rest of the starting unit to not do too much early on.

West Valley travels to the Tri-Cities this Tuesday to play Kennewick. This will be a game to keep your eye on as Kennewick knocked off West Valley's in-conference rival Moses Lake in their first game.




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