Payne, with a lot of help from Buchan, almost brought Valley (8-1) all the way back against all odds, cutting the Hoover lead that had reached as many as 18 points early in the third quarter all the way down to eight midway through the fourth.
But Payne picked up her fourth foul after being called for a technical in the second quarter, and while she managed to play the first 11 minutes of the second half cleanly, she got caught reaching under the basket just as Valley was making its biggest run. Her night, and as a result Valley's, was over.
Credit Hoover as well. Every time Valley would chip away at the Huskies' lead, one of the seemingly never-ending barrage of 3-pointers would fall.
Bethany Romine was especially huge as she cashed in on six of Hoover's 12 3-point makes, including three big ones to account for the Huskies' first nine points of the fourth quarter. She finished with a team-best 18 points.
"It's back to percentages," Ullman explained. "If we miss four in a row to let them back in the game, we assume we're going to hit the next one or two. It's a percentage thing with us and we're not bashful about shooting."
Cantrell made no bones about the fact that Saturday was a litmus test for Valley, which is now entering a more difficult part of its schedule after cruising through the first eight games.
Still, the coach saw enough positives to remain confident in his squad.
"I see this as a good experience tonight," Cantrell said. "I'm not disheartened. I think we have some good ball ahead of us this year."
Kari Harding scored 11 points for Hoover while Emma Chapman added nine points and seven steals. Caroline Thornburg also scored nine for the Huskies.
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, ryan.pr...@wvgazette.com, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.