When Turlock Christian and Denair High’s varsity girls’ basketball teams met for the first official game of the season back on Nov. 28, there was a lopsided score that saw a 28-point difference. TC won that game 46-18.
Now, it was the Coyotes of Denair who nearly pulled off an upset against the Eagles, leading at the half and by double digits in the third quarter.
TC still managed to creep their way back into the game late in the fourth as they won it 43-34.
“We had to make some adjustments, our point guard was sick, didn’t play,” said TC head coach Edwin Santiago. “We didn't have the chemistry so we made the adjustments in the second and left with some momentum.”
“We started off strong, but we got a bit too confident and started making little mistakes with the pressure,” said Denair head coach Ezcally Lopez. “Starting the game, I knew we were going to be able to keep up with them, but I knew we were going to have to work hard the whole game.”
In the first two quarters, Lopez said she was happy with the Coyotes leading 24-18, leaning towards the potential upset after a strong start.
“First two quarters I was happy with what we were doing overall, but when it came to the second half, they changed the way they were playing,” said Lopez. “We kept making the same mistake. It was frustrating but I knew it was because of the pressure and all I could do was try to relax them.”
The second half pressure and adjustments made by the Eagles then led to the falter of the Coyotes.
“Second time we knew what to do and our league will do the same,” said Santiago. “We need to embrace the challenge and play to win, not to lose, which means our mindset can overcome limitations that the other team has made.”
TC overcame a double-digit deficit and outscored Denair 11-3 in the third quarter, then 14-7 in the fourth, outscoring them 25-10 in the second half.
They were held to no three-point shots going 0-of-5. Mayah Salas dropped a team-high 14 points for TC and Cameron Swanson added 10 for the Eagles who have now won back-to-back.
Swanson also finished with nine blocks, an attribute that coach Santiago said “helped a lot.”
TC added 17 steals and was forced to turn the ball 14 times.
Denair has now lost eight straight with Thursday’s 44-18 loss to Waterford on the road.
The Coyotes are now 4-13 overall and 0-7 in the Southern League.
“We are able to keep up with these teams but when it comes down to the pressure, that is what kills the team,” said Lopez. “They begin to panic when they don’t need to. But we do have a young team and in my opinion, that plays a part in this as well. They are not used to all the pressure put on them.”
TC is 13-9 and second in the Central California Athletic Alliance with a 3-1 record.
“Paige Vieira played at point and was able to bring life to our offense, we had trouble getting rhythm or consistency on offense, they (Denair) did a great job defensively,” Santiago added. “Your challenges and limitations that people bring to you, people stepped up rebounding wise, offensively we had 20 rebounds, she had nine assists and stepped up her game.”
TC will next take on Venture Academy at 6:30 p.m. Monday.
Denair will next host Le Grand at 7:30 p.m. Monday.