by Christopher Mohr
January 25, 2011 (Rancho San Diego) - When most coaches talk about playing defense, they use terms like 'deny' and 'shut down'. When your opponent has a player as talented as Granite Hills' Garrett Larch-Miller, who averages 26 points per game, defensive vocabulary changes to 'containing' and 'slowing down'.
In Friday night's boys basketball game at Valhalla High School, the host Norsemen were able to slow Larch-Miller down enough to pull out a 54-44 win over the Eagles.
A cursory glance at scoring totals might lead one to think that the Norsemen did not contain Larch-Miller at all. He led all scorers with a total of 27 points, more or less equaling his average.
However, a deeper examination of Larch-Miller's scoring tells a more accurate story. Over half of his scoring total came in the fourth quarter when he scored 14 points--when the Eagles were playing catch up. This means that for much of the game, the Valhalla defense kept Larch-Miller in check.
"I want to say something about Kevin Mills. Kevin Mills did a great job tonight defensively for us. We put him on Garrett more than we expected. We had some other guys in foul trouble, so we had to stick with him, and he did a really good job," said Valhalla coach Keith Jackson.
The second and third quarters were when the Norsemen's defense was the most effective. They gave up seven points in the second quarter and only three in the third. At the same time, the Norsemen scored 26 points. It made for a quick recovery from a 14-8 deficit in the first quarter.
David Wilschetz gave the Norsemen a lift on several occasions when it seemed that the Eagles had regained momentum. Whether it was a dunk that charged the home crowd up or the nine points he scored in the fourth quarter, Wilschetz was a leader on the floor and his team's go-to guy. He finished with a total of 19 points. Spencer Haivird was also a major contributor for Valhalla with 11 points.
Wilschetz described the game as he saw it: "We knew it was going going to be loud, we knew it was going to be a tough game, very physical; we expect that from Granite.
"We knew that we had to shut Larch-Miller down, and we managed to do a good enough job of that, but not just shut him down, shut the other guys around him down, give a lot of help defense to the rest of his team so they couldn't really do much."
The gym was packed with vocal fans on both the home and visitor sides and its playoff-like atmosphere was what you would expect with any entrenched rivalry. The intensity was obvious on the floor as emotions sometimes ran high between the players. Both teams combined for a total of three technical fouls.
The victory was a huge win for Valhalla. It comes against a major rival; it kept them from dropping to 0-2 in league play and it allowed the team to recover from a tough 41-32 loss to Helix on January 14.
"It was really big because we lost to Helix on Friday. We had a good week of practice, we knew we had to get up for this game," said Jackson.
Haivird summed up the game succinctly: "Granite's always been our rival, so we got to come out and play."
Valhalla improves to 10-8 overall, 1-1 in league play with the win. Their next game will be at Steele Canyon (7-12, 1-1), another nearby rival, on Friday, January 28.
Granite Hills dropped to 13-7 with the loss. Their next game is Friday, January 28 at home against Helix (13-7, 1-1).
Christopher Mohr is a freelance writer in the San Diego area and is an avid Chargers, Padres and
Larch-Miller 27, Atkinson 8, Pety 4, Grubb 2, Sadik 2, Bennett 1 - Total: 44
Wilschetz 19, Haivird 11, Hernandez 7, Lewellen 6, Hermiz 4, McLanechen 3, Mills 2, McDonald 2 - Total: 54