Since the 2007-08 regular seasons, Turlock Christian head coach Edwin Santiago has not had a season where his team has won no less than 18 games.
On Thursday night, in their away season finale, Santiago made it nine consecutive seasons of 18-plus win seasons with a 46-21 shellacking over Big Valley Christian.
“It was our defense that won it for us,” Santiago said. “They definitely picked up the intensity on defense and the turnovers and slipping from the weak side and we jammed them and made it difficult for them to run their offense so our defensive effort was great.”
“Tonight was our last league game and we wanted to come away with a win and that’s what we did, we worked really hard coming into this one,” junior Cassie Balswick said.
The defense was on point for the Eagles who managed to sneak away with 28 steals as a team.
Balswick was responsible for eight of those on top of five assists and seven points.
All-together, 12 of the Eagles 14 players scored at least a point for the game.
“We really tried our hardest and we always like playing Big Valley and we worked together and have improved from the last game,” said Balswick. “This time we changed some things on defense that helped us be successful.”
In their first meeting back on Jan. 24, the Eagles had toppled the Lions by 13-points but it was a much closer game back then.
The Eagles executed their defensive game plan to near perfection, holding the Lions to only 11 points in the first half.
“Tonight we just went out and played our hardest,” said junior McCalister Russell. “We really tried to play our best and coach, he really motivated us and told us not to hold back and just to go full force and make sure to get the defensive rebounds and play hard.”
Russell’s 10 rebounds was a team-high to go with her seven points after snagging eight of those rebounds on the offensive side of the glass.
By the third quarter, the Eagles had built a 20-point lead and their ferocious defense stayed consistent throughout the second half, allowing only 10 points in the third and fourth quarter combined.
The Eagles end the year having won seven of their final eight games and posted an 8-2 Central California Athletic Alliance record in their first year, which was good enough for second place.
“The momentum and the way our team plays, really shows that we are ready for the playoffs,” Santiago said. “It shows that we are also hungry and don’t lack intensity in any way and you look for momentum, not so much wins, but help with pressure defense and I’m looking forward to the playoffs and I know the girls are as well and we can’t finish any better than we did tonight. I think it was a good win.”
The Eagles first playoff game will be played on Feb. 24 with a time and opponent yet to be announced.