By GERARDO RECINOS
Alhambra’s Lady Bulldog basketball team only lost five games this season, and that run allowed them to qualify for North Coast Section after missing the playoffs last season.
However of those five losses, three came in the last five games, as the dream season limped over the finish line: the 58-40 loss to Sonoma Valley on Tuesday night.
Much like their season, the Lady Bulldogs battled hard through the first half of the game, before slowly fading away in the Feb. 21 playoff contest.
That’s not to take any credit away from Sonoma Valley. The Dragons made some adjustments at the halftime interval to stymie much of what the Bulldogs did on offense in the first half of play.
For instance one thing they did effectively was key off on Alhambra’s main scoring threat in the opening half.
Senior Karissa Wiebalk had 12 points at halftime alone. The six-foot tall captain took advantage of her ability in the post, something we haven’t seen from her post-ACL injury, and ran with it.
Wiebalk, along with junior Kiera Rios, both saw a lot of time on the court, as Alhambra dominated the boards. Many of their points in the first half came off of offensive rebounds from the duo.
That’s why things ended in a 13-13 tie in the first quarter. And why the first half also ended in a tie, at 23-23.
At one point the Bulldogs went down eight points in the first half, but they went on a 10-2 run in the final four minutes of the half by working the ball into the post to Wiebalk.
Out of the half, the Dragons made the adjustments, like any good team does. They started putting a pair of players on the Alhambra center, forcing her to beat the double team if she was going to put up a decent attempt.
On any other night that could free up a shooter like Saelym Schmidt or Lani Lara, and give them a better look. Schmidt had a resurgent second half, and ended up totaling a team-high 16 points on the night, but Lara was ice cold from the field.
As if someone had punched in a video game cheat code, the senior guard from Alhambra suddenly couldn’t buy a basket. All the while Sonoma couldn’t miss from long range.
They knocked down six triples in the third quarter alone, the back-breaker being 26-footer by senior Grace Cutting at the buzzer that put the Dragons up 10 points going into the fourth quarter.
By that point it seemed as if the story had been written.
Cutting continued to nail jumper after jumper, leading the way for the Dragons with a game-high 21 points. While fellow senior Kayla Field nailed a pair of 3-pointers in the first two possessions of the quarter.
The 5-foot-8 senior guard Field matched Alhambra’s scoring effort in the quarter by herself.
Uncharacteristically ice cold, the Bulldogs didn’t score for nearly six minutes. And they only converted a two shots from the field, the first coming from Kaylee Pond with the clock already having ran down to 1:06 left in the game.
The hard fought effort is indicative of the fight the team has shown all year. But the result shows that despite some experience on the team, the side is still made of mostly underclassmen.
At the very least the team will have the summer to improve, rather than having to face this displeasure of taking on Bishop O’Dowd-Oakland, Sonoma’s second round opponent.
Bishop O’Dowd is currently ranked the 16th best girls basketball team in the nation according to MaxPreps. That’s 4165 places better than Sonoma, and 2930 better than Alhambra.