I’m never sure how my team will play to start the year. I know we’ll play hard, but it’s always interesting to see which players step up once the games begin. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised at our level of play this early in the season. All of our players made a positive contribution as we had to beat three very good teams in order to win our opening tournament of the season.
We played Santa Rosa to begin the tournament. Santa Rosa is known for its defense, therefore I felt we would have to grind it out for the entire 40 minutes. Things couldn’t have started out any worse for us. We turned the ball over on the first three possessions of the game only to find ourselves down 9 – 0. Fortunately, things picked up from there. Our full-court pressure finally kicked in and that allowed us to get numerous open shots. Bria Fernandes (Madera North) was on fire as she hit four straight 3’s. We went from a 9 – 0 deficit to taking a 53 – 33 halftime lead. We led by 20 or more the entire second half before eventually winning by a score of 87 – 73. We had a number of players who had good games. Randazia Jones (Central) and Mikayla Mabie (Central Valley) had 12 and 11 points respectfully. Jordan Bairos (Caruthers) had 7 rebounds off the bench. Finally, Hannah Fong (Clovis East) was 3 for 4 from the 3 point line for a total of 9 points
Our semi-final game was against a very talented Diablo Valley team. Unlike the Santa Rosa game, we came out ready to play. We were flying up and down the floor creating turnover after turnover and turning them into easy baskets. We took a 19 point lead to close out the first quarter. Our lead grew to as many as 25 points in the second half. The final score was 80 – 68, but the game was never in doubt. Bria Fernandes had five 3’s for a total of 15 points. Julia Cuellar (Bullard) had 11 points to go with 5 assists. Mikayla Mabie had 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists, while Madissen Harp (Bullard) had 11 points and 8 rebounds.
The championship game was against Merced College. This game worried me because I had to sit our starting point guard (Julia Cuellar) in order to rest her knee. Julia is coming off an ACL injury and her knee is still sore. Rather than play her a ton of minutes early in the season, we have decided to play her only in certain games until we get to league. Therefore, she will never play all 3 games in any tournament we’re in. Fortunately, Randazia Jones and Liz Parker (Clovis West) did a fantastic job of stepping in for Julia. Randazia finished the game with 21 points and 7 rebounds, while Liz made some very timely baskets as we won 85 – 70. Jasmine Phoolka (Clovis) played very well as she finished with 15 points and 5 rebounds. Mikayla Mabie had another excellent game scoring 19 points along with 3 rebounds and 4 assists.
All in all, it was a good start to the season. Obviously, we have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us if we want to reach our goal of getting back to the State Tournament.