On paper, the Bulldog varsity girls’ basketball team took two losses against Dougherty Valley on Feb. 2. First they lost the game, then they lost their leading scorer.
The game was tight. A 56-46 loss to a Wildcat team that beat Alhambra by almost 20 a month ago is an improvement, but when you add to that the fact that the girls rallied without junior Karissa Wiebalk, it’s that much more impressive.
“What the girls did was they rallied around each other and played with a sense of urgency,” Bautista said of the three quarters of play without his junior center.
“She [Wiebalk] is a big part of our team, but at the same time they had to step up. We had girls step up rebounding, and really just get back to the fundamentals. It came down to boxing out and rebounding,” he said.
At the time Wiebalk was injured (with 6:33 in the second quarter), the junior had already collected six points, five rebounds and four blocks. Well on her way to a triple-double before a scramble for a loose ball saw her tangled in a heap on the court.
It took extraordinary efforts from upperclassmen Alanis Lara and Cara DiMercurio to rally the team and continue on competing. Immediately after the injury, another upperclassman, Saelym Schmidt, gathered the team before they took the court and likely also added words of encouragement.
It had to be five girls collectively working together for Alhambra to rescue anything from the game, and they did. After an abysmal shooting effort from the charity stripe in the first quarter, Alhambra did just enough to stay over 50 percent from the free throw line in the half, and be down only 10.
They shook off yet another team opting to go full-court with their defensive strategy, and passed their way patiently through the press. Unlike in previous contests this season, the girls split the court in half.
“As far as the press, I would say I was very pleased with our decision making,” Bautista said. “We were making the smart pass over the home run.”
After getting down by as many as 13 due to Dougherty Valley’s streaky 3-point shooting, Alhambra lit up. They got big shots from senior Aly Najera and Jessica Clark, the team’s two biggest threats from beyond the arc. However that wasn’t enough to stop a jump-shooting team like the Wildcats who live and die by the three.
Dougherty went on an 11-0 run that was only stopped by a pair of free throws and a gutsy three-point play from DiMercurio. On the and one, the senior was clobbered hard on her way to the rim.
When it was said and done, Dougherty relied on the cushion they built to see the game out, and Alhambra came up short.
“I was really impressed with how the team pulled together and controlled the tempo,” Bautista said after the game. “We wanted to make solid short passes and bring the ball up slowly, and attack once we got to half court.”
“We were able to shorten the court and attack the basket,” he said, noting that wasn’t something they were able to do earlier in the season.
Wiebalk’s status is unknown as of Tribune deadline.