The girls of Turlock Christian High (6-4) hosted the much improved Denair Coyotes (4-4) on Friday night in a critical showdown between the two local schools.
To prepare for their big matchup against Pitman High next week, the Eagles were tested by the Coyotes' aggressive and up tempo style of play that has caused problems for their opponents—just not for TC.
After a narrow first and second quarter, the Eagles found themselves up by five after the first half ended, but midway through the third quarter the Eagles went on a scoring frenzy dropping 21 points while allowing only nine.
With the help of McCalister Russell’s double-double the Eagles landed their sixth straight victory, 68-35, to make it four wins out of their last five contests.
“It was a very challenging game for us. We had to work to get everything that we had,” TC head coach Edwin Santiago said. “They are aggressive and not intimidated by our height, Mike [Turpin] is doing a great job in Denair.”
“In the first half we gave them [TC] fits. If we had some calls go our way and not their way and it’s a tighter first half, but we gave it away,” said Denair head coach Mike Turpin. “They are stronger; they have been together for four years.”
The much taller TC team definitely saw some struggles early on in the paint but that didn’t deplete their ability to come back after a sketchy first half.
Denair, which seems to run nonstop in every game, shook the Eagles up a bit but by the fourth quarter it looked like the gas had run out of the Coyotes' tank.
“We are doing much better with executing on offense and getting inside instead of settling for an outside shot against the zone,” Santiago said. “So I really appreciated that with our team that we actually took the ball inside and looked for the open pass instead of just outside shooting.”
Denair, which starts three sophomores, has seen growing pains but its underclassmen really seem to only get better as the year progresses.
Leading all Denair scorers were the sophomores as Katie Hernandez finished with a team-high 10 points.
Sophomores Eva Varni and Kelsey Park were next in line with nine and eight, respectively.
For TC, Russell finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds while Cassie Balswick added eight steals and 15 points.
Senior Hannah Sawyer drained three three-point shots as she ended the night with 11 points.
“We are not as efficient with our three-point shooting, although we are making shots there but up to this point I am happy with the inside game that we have,” said Santiago. “Our girls are working together better since our assists are higher and they are able to peak at the basket and see the other players and we are now locating the defenses.”
Denair’s next game will be at Rio Vista High at 6:30 p.m. Monday.
“The one thing that I enjoyed is the girls said they want to practice more to be stronger with the ball and they are getting that message,” Turpin added. “Every practice I have a practice sheet and we have things to work on and one is to own every shot.”