By GERARDO RECINOS
When a game starts with a team putting up only four points in a quarter, it’s pretty clear they’re having an off night.
Maybe their minds weren’t focused due to the winter break? Maybe the Albany team was just better? Fair questions due to the turn out from the varsity girls, who lost 45-37 on the road.
In an important Division III match up, it became clear that these Bulldog girls couldn’t buy a basket.
Albany knew who they needed to zone in on, and junior Karissa Wiebalk had to fight her way through a double team nearly the entire game. Only in the second half did the three-year varsity starter begin to make her scoring presence known. Before that she was living on the boards.
Albany tangled up well with Wiebalk, and forced the other Bulldogs to try and beat them on the perimeter. In the first quarter only senior Cara DiMercurio’s three-point shot came from the field. The Bulldogs’ only other point came from a Saelym Schmidt free throw.
They picked up the pace in the second quarter – barely.
Short jumpers from DiMercurio and junior Alanis Lara cut the lead to two, but Albany rallied.
The Cougars rode a hot streak from senior captain Jane Xu. The senior forward hit a big three with a defender in her face and then drained a top of the net jumper. All that momentum came off the back of a well-taken Albany timeout.
From the half, Jason Bautista’s Bulldogs came out onto the court with a different attitude born no doubt from a testy halftime talk.
The Bulldogs went on a quick 7-0 run fueled by an early three-pointer from senior guard Aly Najera, and a physical three-point play converted by Wiebalk.
Schmidt’s steal and basket forced Albany to take a timeout and regather before they answered the Alhambra run with a 7-0 run of their own to break back out to a three-point lead.
In the fourth quarter, both teams broke out and scored more than they had for the duration of the game. Free throws took a big part in the increased scoring, but the teams looked a lot more tired and scorers on both sides took advantage of that.
Alhambra closed a five-point lead down to only two points, but Xu nailed another big three, while junior Courtney Tamaki completed her three-point play to put Albany up by seven points.
Alhambra had a few opportunities to get within striking range, but failed to do so because of sloppy play with the ball in their hands. The Bulldogs turned the ball over four times in the final two minutes, and Albany hit their shots from the charity stripe to secure their victory.
Albany beat Las Lomas by a comfortable margin earlier in the month, so the loss is indicative of the winnable nature of games in Diablo Foothill Athletic League play, which starts immediately after the West Coast Jamboree which takes place in the final days of 2015.
The Bulldogs will be hosting the tournament they’ve won two years in a row starting on Dec. 28, when they host Middletown.