Can At­wa­ter girls end 31-year CCC bas­ket­ball ti­tle drought?

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - Atwater Signal - BY SHAWN JANSEN [email protected]­ced­sun-star.com

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IT’S THE SAME TYPE OF COM­PE­TI­TION WE HOPE TO SEE LATER IN THE SEA­SON, BUT WE’RE GET­TING THE EX­PE­RI­ENCE NOW.

For the At­wa­ter High se­niors like Kelsey Va­len­cia, they know this is their last shot. One fi­nal chance to put their year on the ban­ner.

The Fal­cons girls bas­ket­ball team is try­ing to win their first Cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship since 1988. At­wa­ter (11-4) is the fa­vorite as con­fer­ence play be­gins on Thurs­day night.

“The twins (Kelsey and Lexi Va­len­cia) have been on it since they got here,” said At­wa­ter coach JR Davis. “Ev­ery year they’ve been try­ing to change that 1988.”

Kelsey is half­way through her fourth year play­ing at the var­sity level. She re­cently eclipsed 1,000 ca­reer points. Lexi is a third-year var­sity point guard.

“It’s prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant things to us as a whole,” Kelsey said. “We don’t prac­tice as much as we used to in the old gym. That’s where the ban­ner is, but ev­ery time we walk in there we stare at it. We look at it and let it get un­der our skin.”

The Fal­cons will have to bat­tle it out in the CCC with Merced (4-5), El Cap­i­tan (8-7) and Pat­ter­son (5-5). The Gau­chos re­ceived a big boost with the ad­di­tion of Amaya Ervin, who trans­ferred from Merced.

Kelsey Va­len­cia is av­er­ag­ing al­most 17 points and eight re­bounds per game. Lexi is av­er­ag­ing 15 points to go along with 4.6 re­bounds, 4.4 steals and 4.3 as­sists per game.

Marisa Martinez and Amani Clai­borne have also pro­vide a scor­ing punch for At­wa­ter.

“I like that we have the same team as last year, but it’s like they’ve evolved,” Davis said. “They’ve got­ten even bet­ter.”

The Fal­cons go about 10 deep and pres­sure ev­ery­where. At­wa­ter will even press off missed shots.

With al­most ev­ery­body back from last year’s team that fin­ished 15-12, Davis has added some tougher teams to the sched­ule this year.

The Fal­cons have made long road trips to play teams in the Sacra­mento area like

Kelsey Va­len­cia

Ne­vada Union and Del Campo. They just re­turned from the West Coast Jam­boree in the Bay Area, where they took their lumps.

“Our bracket was pretty good,” Davis said. “We played En­ter­prise, St. Fran­cis and Amador Val­ley. They were like play­off games. We lost ev­ery game, but we learned a lot. We came out of there with an aware­ness of what we need to do.”

“It’s the same type of com­pe­ti­tion we hope to see later in the sea­son, but we’re get­ting the ex­pe­ri­ence now,” Kelsey added. “It’s also go­ing to help us out with seed­ing for the play­offs. It’s help­ing to put us in a good sit­u­a­tion.”

EARLY CCC BOYS SHOW­DOWN

The two top boys teams will clash on Fri­day when Golden Val­ley opens up CCC play at El Cap­i­tan.

The Gau­chos will try to make their first step to­ward a sec­ond straight CCC cham­pi­onship. El Cap­i­tan has won 10 of its last 11 games. Mar­cus McCutchen has led the way, av­er­ag­ing 18.3 points per game. Dil­lon Green­wood has also been strong this sea­son, av­er­ag­ing 14.9 points.

The Cougars (11-5) had a 10-game win­ning streak ear­lier this sea­son. Golden Val­ley is led by se­nior Etrell Bow­ers. Se­nior Bren­dan Nole has been a sharp-shooter this sea­son, giv­ing the Cougars a weapon from be­yond the 3-point line.

LIV­INGSTON’S WIN­TON ON SCOR­ING TEAR

Liv­ingston se­nior An­nie Win­ton has been on fire in her last four games, av­er­ag­ing 37 points.

In her last four games, the Wolves star has racked up 37 points against Ripon, 36 points against Hugh­son, a ca­reer-high 43 points against Gre­gori and 32 points against Mari­posa.

Liv­ingston is 3-1 in those four games.

AN­DREW KUHN [email protected]­ced­sun-star.com

The top two boys teams in the CCC, Golden Val­ley and El Cap­i­tan, open league play Fri­day against each other. Mar­cus McCutchen leads the Gou­chos, who have won 10 of their last 11 games, with 18.3 points a game.

AN­DREW KUHN [email protected]­ced­sun-star.com

Liv­ingston ju­nior An­nie Win­ton (33) at­tempts a layup dur­ing a game against Mari­posa at Liv­ingston High School on Dec. 28, 2017. The Griz­zlies beat the Wolves 57-45.

AN­DREW KUHN [email protected]­ced­sun-star.com

At­wa­ter head coach Leonard Davis speaks to his play­ers dur­ing a game against Tur­lock at At­wa­ter High School on Jan. 30, 2018.

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