By GERARDO RECINOS
It was clear from the get go that Friday night’s championship game of the West Coast Jamboree Quartz bracket was not going to go the rest of the tournament had gone for the Lady Bulldogs.
There was no 30-point plus win, but the Bulldog girls battled against a physical Cheyenne-North Las Vegas side that hung tough for four quarters. The Bulldogs’ 56-48 win on Dec. 30, clinched them their third West Coast Jamboree plaque in the last four years.
More importantly the girls rebounded from a slow start in the first half to get the win.
“What I told my girls is we knew going in that they’re a physical team. We told them that if we don’t match their intensity we’re not going to get the calls we expect,” said coach Jason Bautista. “We kind of went stride for stride with them, basket for basket, turnover for turnover.”
Even despite the less than stellar start, Alhambra only found themselves down a single point at the halftime interval.
In a first half that saw 11 lead changes, neither team looked like it was playing its best game. But the aptly-named Desert Shields were dominating the boards and just looked stronger than Alhambra.
However only two scorers for the Bulldogs had more than two points going into the half, sophomore’s Bry Waters and Abby Brown. Waters lead the team with 20 points on the night.
At the break Bautista told his team, “‘I think we’ve seen their best.’ Our conditioning will kick in, and I think it comes down to basketball IQ.”
Aggressive play from the Desert Shields, allowed the Bulldogs to make some adjustments. In the first half they jumped passing lanes in attempt to steal the ball. Bautista said it wasn’t about who could make the play, but who could make the better play.
It was his team who made the better play.
Straight out of the gate, the Bulldogs went on a 9-0 run after Cheyenne’s Marisha Harden nailed a three-pointer for the opening field goal of the half.
It was Brown who sparked the run with a steal and basket, before dishing the ball to a cutting Karissa Wiebalk on the following possession. Then Wiebalk herself delivered the blow that forced a timeout from Cheyenne by hitting an uncontested three-pointer.
“Abby played an amazing game tonight. She sees the floor well, and she made good basketball decisions based on what the defense was giving her,” Bautista said. Brown had 15 points on the night.
That 9-0 run opened up the score, but it also created a more free-flowing style of pace to the game that favored the more conditioned Bulldogs. That’s what Bautista wanted. The second 9-0 run put the game away.
“Those 9-0 runs definitely stretched the game out. We had to make sure we honed in defensively to stop them from going to the hoop,” Bautista said.
Alhambra built up a lead that topped out at 15 points with only three minutes left on the clock, but they were still left with work to do.
They withstood an onslaught in the final three minutes, but because they had built up such a big lead, Cheyenne was forced to launch a ton of jump shots. Something that just wasn’t in their arsenal.
So even though they were outscored in the final three minutes 7-2, the Lady Dogs held on to win the tournament and collect their 11th win in a row.
“What we’re going to have to do is come back Monday, be humble, and want to be able to get better, Bautista said. “Tonight we got better as a basketball team.”