Turlock Christian High is new to the Central California Athletic Alliance, so this year’s league campaign on the basketball court is being waged against unfamiliar opponents. Gone from the Southern Athletic League where its girls won league titles in four of the past five years, TC is looking at this season as a chance to establish itself as a team to be reckoned with in the CCAA.
But while 2015’s focus might be on their new home, the Eagles found time on Friday to welcome a familiar foe in Waterford High to its home court. In their first non-league game in over a decade, the Eagles and Wildcats played as fans familiar with the matchup in years past would expect them to — aggressive and physical.
Waterford stood its ground and played hard through all four quarters, but the speed and intensity of TC’s defense proved to be too much as the Eagles took the win, 52-34.
“I think we’re one of the leaders as far as steals. We have some girls who can shoot that gap pretty strong,” TC head coach Edwin Santiago said. “That’s vital to our ability to play basketball, our defense.”
TC flexed its defensive muscle from the onset of the game as players like Cassie Balswick, Meghan Mark and McCallister Russell regularly intercepted passes, stole the ball and nabbed rebounds off the boards. The Eagles’ defensive success directly translated into points on offense with TC doubling Waterford’s scoring output in the first quarter before extending and holding a lead of at least ten points for the rest of the game.
By the fourth quarter TC led by as much as 20 and essentially cruised to victory with the help of 17 points from Balswick.
“The physicality of Waterford is much stronger than maybe some of the other teams we’re going to play,” Santiago said of Friday’s opponent. “Waterford has always played us very competitive. They’re a very tough team.”
TC must now get back to league competition on Tuesday when its girls host powerhouse VA Excel High of Stockton. Though they enter the game as underdogs, the Eagles are hoping that Friday’s physical matchup with the Wildcats will prepare them for what is sure to be a battle with VA Excel in the second CCAA game of the season.
“They’re definitely favored. They’re stacked with a lot of talent and athletic AAU players, players that want to play at the next level,” Santiago. “We’re not favored in the game, but I want the girls to play hard, play smart, play together and have fun. We’ve got nothing to lose and we’re playing a team that’s supposed to be better than us, so if we win that game that would be a great victory for us.
“They’re going to do the same thing we do. They’re going trap us; full-court press us. Their defense is really intense, that’s their strength,” he added.