Early games high­light Braw­ley day 2 tour­na­ment ac­tion

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY AARON BODUS Sports Ed­i­tor

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.

PHOTO AARON BODUS

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.

PHOTO AARON BODUS

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.

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