Senior starting teammates Kelli Valentine and Lexi Bishop have come a long way since they stepped on the court four years ago.
Senior starting teammates Kelli Valentine and Lexi Bishop have come a long way since they stepped on the court four years ago. With less than half a season to go, the senior duo is ready to finish out with a bang. Forward Valentine and guard Bishop have very different leadership styles, but both have led the team to recent victories with their career highs in points and rebounds.
Valentine recorded consecutive double-doubles in points and rebounds against Sac State on Jan. 29 and again the following week. On Feb. 3, the forward grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds against Sacramento State. Valentine said that rebounds were a key aspect of the game that she was focusing on improving. She led the team in rebounds for three consecutive games—Eastern Washington followed by the pair of Sac State games.
Bishop said she considers herself to be predominantly a defense player, but her performance in the second Sac State game proves the guard can play offense as well. Bishop landed a career-high 18 points, including a pair of treys against the Hornets. As for her defense, Bishop said that she is focusing on getting quick stops.
“I’m improving my role this year defensively,” Bishop said. “[I’m] stopping the players I’m guarding.”
The two friends and teammates might have some similarities in their ability to shoot well and defend tightly, but the seniors’ leadership styles are anything but similar.
“I am definitely a vocal leader,” Valentine said, “I bring energy to the court and boost the energy and I guess loudness in general getting everyone going.”
Bishop, on the other hand, said she is working on the vocal side of leadership, but coined her style as anything but.
“I’d say definitely I’m more of a leader by example,” Bishop said. “I’m not the type to yell at people and I’m not really vocal. I try and do the right things and do the little things and have people follow that and see that the little things count.”
The teammates have started in nearly all the games this season; Bishop has started all 23 games and Valentine sat out just one. The seniors said that this year, being their last at PSU, has been a big motivator.
Following the win against Sacremento State earlier in the month, head coach Sherri Murrell said that Valentine was truly playing “like it was her last season.”
Valentine added that when she started as a freshman four years ago she played hard because she didn’t know how to play any other way, but now she says she feels she truly understands the importance of playing hard. A role model of hers that played for the Montana Lady Griz told her to remember that these years of playing basketball are some of the best in her life.
About her mentor’s words, the senior said, “I hadn’t realized that [statement] in its full potential, and once I realized that, I realized there won’t be another time in my life to be around these type of people and play this type of basketball, and I just want to do anything I can to get a win.”
Bishop similarly said that she understands that this is the final season. She said that it honestly was “weird” to think about only having a few months left of basketball. She added that watching her older brother play college basketball reminds her to work harder than ever and that it will pay off.
Bishop said that this being the last cycle of playing these opposing teams is a great motivator.
“It brings a sense of urgency,” Bishop said prior to last week’s matchup with the Bengals. “This is the last time I’ll play Idaho State. That reality pushes you to bring everything you can to every game.”
The two players have goals of again making it to the “Big Dance” in the spring, but until then they both agree the team needs to focus on playing their game for the remainder of the season.
Both players agreed that bringing energy to the court, and most notably opening the game with energy, is the key to their success.
“I think the biggest part is just to try and play like we’re at home, not let their fans and their atmosphere get in our heads,” said Bishop of playing away games.
While the two seniors are anxious to have time for visiting old friends, spending time with family and enjoying the outdoors, it is a bittersweet reality to count down the weeks of something they enjoy so much.
Valentine said that it was the competitive side of the game that drew her to basketball, while Bishop enjoyed the fast-paced rhythm. Both players agreed they love and will miss the team aspect of the game of basketball.
“The whole feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself is huge,” Valentine said. “When you love your teammates as much as we do, you just can’t compare that to anything—it’s amazing.”
The pair of seniors hope to teach their younger teammates to always come out and play their hardest. Bishop said being respectful of coaches is huge to their success, and Valentine added that she hopes her teammates realize that “these are the best times of your life.” ?