Early games highlight Brawley day 2 tournament action
BRAWLEY — First’s the worst, second’s the best. So goes the old schoolyard chant. As a refrain, it usually betokens sour grapes more than anything else, but sometimes it rings true.
Such was the case in Brawley on Friday, as the second day of the Wildcats’ girls’ varsity basketball tournament packed a bit more of a wallop than did the first.
Both of the day’s early games — Southwest vs. Rancho Mirage and Brawley vs. Holtville — turned out to be real contests, complete with back-and-forth scoring, runouts and reversals.
More importantly, neither was decided before the final minutes.
Against Rancho Mirage, Southwest largely succeeded in keeping the Rattlers a few inches outside of their comfort zone.
Rancho Mirage’s game is largely predicated on gunning it up and down the court and getting to the rim before they have to face a set defense.
Point guard Willow Mannes — who looks to be the player with the tightest handle at the tournament — gives them the wherewithal to do so against a lot of teams, but Southwest’s cadre of experienced perimeter players did a decent job of sticking to her hip and forcing the Rattlers into their half-court offense, making them work for every shot.
On offense, the Eagles responded to Rancho Mirage’s ball pressure by trying to hit sideline runners on outlet passes going on 45-degree rim runs.
They also got some nice finishes in the frontcourt by captain Dianne Burke — who busted out a Euro-step on at least one face-up — and points off patient spot-ups by Gisselle Chaney (another captain) and Janelle Sanchez.
The Eagles trailed by only three (26-23) at the half and kept things close through most of the third until the Rattlers started picking off some errant post-entry passes and converting them into points, allowing them to expand the lead somewhat, ultimately winning 48-43.
While the Southwest-Rancho game was plenty good by the standards of the day, the Brawley-Holtville game one-upped it and then some.
Holtville entered the game with a pristine 5-0 record and one tourney win under its belt already.
Brawley was only 4-6, but it had faced some pretty high-caliber teams prior to Friday’s game, was coming off of back-to-back Thursday wins and was the home team to boot.
The ingredients for a good game were all in the pot well before it came to a boil.
Still, it wasn’t an instant classic.
Holtville opened the game a bit sluggishly. Respecting the Wildcats ability to stroke it from deep, they elected not to press on defense in the first half, fearing a bevy of breakaway treys that could bury them early.
As a straight-up coaching ploy, the strategy worked like a charm — the Wildcats made zero threes in the first half — but the wrinkle seemed to take the Vikings out of themselves a bit, and they missed the transition offense.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, played with composure and worked on getting the ball inside where Destiny Cisneros and Valerie Valadez were able to generate some early points.
At the half, Brawley was up 27-19, and seemed to be more on-key than the Vikings, despite it being their third game in two days.
Over the break, Viking coach Murray Anderson admonished his team to focus, noting that, even though they had “played badly” by their standard in the first couple of frames, they were still only down eight and had a winnable game in front of them.
He also elected to “unleash the hounds” on defense — putting guards Amanda Angulo, Orian Anderson, Cynthia Cortez and Victoria Camacho back in their natural habitat.
This tweak had the desired effect of jump-starting the Viking offense, but this was counterbalanced by suddenly available Wildcat threes and rim-runs from the likes of Angie Zamudio, Yisel Arias and Valadez.
The Vikings seemed to win this trade. Little by little, Holtville chipped away at the Wildcat lead, eventually tying it up at 38-38 in the fourth. It became a game of quick hits.
A floater by Zamudio, a floater by Angulo. 40-40. Holtville got two on Anderson to Angulo to Carolina Valdes on a tough leaner, only for Arias to stroke a corner three. 43-42 Brawley.
It went on like this, with various Hail Marys, intentional fouls, clutch rebounds and free throws made and missed until it stood at 46-43, Brawley, with 13.6 seconds to go.
Holtville called a timeout after grabbing the board on the front end of a one-and-one foul shot (one thing that helped the Vikings pull during their run was being in the double bonus, while the Wildcats weren’t).
They inbounded the ball from in front of the Wildcat bench and got into their set, but things didn’t go smoothly.
Angulo passed to Anderson, who flipped it to Valdes in a near throwaway. Then, with the clock winding down, Valdes shoveled it back to Anderson who had space at the top of the key.
She gathered. She shot. She sent the game to overtime right as the buzzer was sounding.
Speaking after the Vikings’ second game of the day — versus Vincent Memorial — Anderson admitted to being hyperfocused on the moment, just thinking “I need to shoot” and that after she made it she knew that “the game wasn’t over.”
She was right. OT wasn’t a walk in the park. The Wildcats fought, and even got Anderson to foul out a minute into the period. But the Vikings had the momentum and were able to pull out a 55-50 win.
The Vikings’ 6 p.m. date with the Scots was naturally an anticlimax. Exhilarated, but exhausted, they spilled the bench onto the court in what Coach Anderson characterized as a “sloppy” game but still managed a 48-30 win over a depleted Vincent squad.
The other late game was no more exciting. Calipatria, after Thursday’s disappointment against Rancho Mirage, came out raring to go against Central, and go they did, beating the Spartans early (28-11 at the half) and late (51-35) final to pick up their fourth win of the year — led by their upperclass quartet of Sadie Chavez (14 points), Alyssa Romero (14), Jackie Vega (13), and Desiree Romero (8).
Tomorrow will determine the tourney champs, after the last pool games are sorted out. Saturday’s action starts at 10 a.m. with the Eagles playing the Hornets.
Holtville’s Orian Anderson (right) advances the ball late during the Vikings’ 55-50 overtime win over Brawley on Friday night. Anderson would hit a buzzer-beating three to tie the game at 46-46 at the end of the fourth.
Brawley’s Yisel Arias drives towards the hoop during the first half of the Wildcats’ Friday game against the Holtville Vikings. Brawley led 27-19 at the break but would go on to lose 55-50 in OT.