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Eagles top Coyotes in girls basketball opening game
Denair Girls 1
The Denair High varsity girls basketball team fell to Turlock Christian 46-18 on Tuesday night, however, second year head coach Ezcally Lopez knows this season will be an improvement. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal

Turlock Christian and Denair High varsity girls basketball kicked off the 2017-18 season on Tuesday night from the Calvary Baptist gym in what has become a friendly rivalry and a glimpse of what the near future has in stored for both programs.

The TC Eagles won 46-18 over the Coyotes, but Denair showed fight, holding TC to just 23 points in the first half and both head coaches are now even more eager to see how their squads progress as the season unfolds.

“It is a different atmosphere than last year. Last year was good, but this team seems much more connected and I give a lot of credit to our JV coaches and program,” said TC head coach Edwin Santiago. “They took the bonding they learned there on to varsity.”

“They have progressed a lot actually,” said Denair head coach Ezcally Lopez. “Before they were scared to do certain things, and a lot of them also didn't have much experience playing basketball, but going through practice they have learned a lot. They know they have to focus and put in work to win games.”

Winning games is something that Denair has struggled in recent years after winning just one game all of last season—their final game of the 2016-17 season.

Lopez, a Kinesiology major at CSU Stanislaus, is a young coach who played ball in high school and is hoping that her knowledge can transfer to the court with her group.

“This intertwines with what I am majoring in,” said Lopez. “It is not stressful since it works with my school schedule. But overall it is a job that I enjoy doing and I am pretty passionate about it. Basketball is something I love to do and did my whole life.”

Expect for the Coyotes to continue to improve with the season developing in the Southern Athletic League.

“This season I hope to get the girls to be very confident in themselves,” said Lopez. “They have put in work and they are talented, but I am pretty sure we are going to win more games than last season, we should be better.”

The Eagles come off a 4-6 year in the Central California Athletic Alliance and 8-16 overall, but coach Santiago and his deep roster of 11 are confident and know that this year is a new season and a new opportunity to best their outcome from a year ago.

“We were going through growing pains last season and now we really have a team that, chemistry wise, is really together, there are no stress or anxiety,” said Santiago. “I don't know what the difference is but I really appreciate that from this team, they are together, all 11 players are connected.”

Santiago also has the luxury of rotating all players and never losing a beat, he said.

“We rotate equally, no intimidation or fear no matter what our patterns are. I am looking forward to the growth from this point on to determine what groups work the best,” said Santiago. “Definitely higher expectations. We want to work on being able to execute better this year and we are not going into the game with specific statistics. The wins and losses will take care of themselves.”

Danika Muller, Cameron Swanson and Paige Vieira are this year's captains and have been providing the team with early glimpses of great leadership.

“I think our leaders…have done a great job teaching our system to those who were not part of it,” Santiago added. “Maybe that is part of the chemistry, that our leadership core are good teachers, good motivators and well organized. They have put it together.”

Denair will next take on Hughson on the road at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

TC will take on Franklin of Stockton on the road at 6:30 p.m. Monday.