SIOUX FALLS -- A defensive switch and a strong fourth quarter ushered Dakota Valley over top-ranked (B) Warner in the Pentagon Girls Classic on Saturday.
The Panthers, trailing by seven entering the final eight minutes, switched to a zone defense, outscored Warner 25-13 and picked up a 59-54 victory.
"We had a huge fourth quarter," said Dakota Valley coach Tammy Lilly. " We had great scoring separation and our defensive effort was picked up big time in the fourth quarter. We switched to a zone and our guards really got after it and we were able to get steals and convert a lot of them into layups.
"We had six girls score in the fourth quarter and we made our free throws."
The Panthers, now 4-0, made 17 of 22 free throws in the game, including 13 of 15 in the fourth quarter.
Alyssa Johnson had eight of her 12 points in the final eight minutes while eighth-grader Rylee Rosenquist had all seven of her Johnson's layup with 4:39 to play tied the game at 45-45 and Rosenquist hit two free throws 16 seconds later to give Dakota Valley the lead for good.
Peyton Wingert scored 14 points while Madisyn Heeren had seven points and eight rebounds and Rachel Rosenquist chipped in eight points.
The Panthers head into the holiday break unbeaten and will face second-ranked (A) Lennox, last year's Class A state runner-up, at home on Thursday, December 28.
Dakota Valley was able to overcome a decisive Warner height advantage as the Monarchs, a state tournament team a year ago, have seven players 5-10 or taller on the roster. Warner out rebounded Dakota Valley 45-29 but couldn't overcome 22 turnovers which led to 15 steals for the winners, five from Johnson and four from Wingert.