Dec. 1, 2020
By Greg Selber
The smart money was on a dogfight Tuesday, really a catfight, between Econ and North, two basketball programs getting plenty tired of looking up at city foes EHS and Vela in the annual standings. Though the Lady Jags had started the season 3-0, the Lady Cougars 0-4, there was little doubt that a competitive scramble was in store out east.
And that’s what the fans got, a very stirring though low-scoring matchup with plenty of tight moments and no little physicality from both sides.
North scrapped its way to a 37-34 victory though it did not score a field goal in the fourth period and went just 6 for 12 from the free-throw line in that final eight minutes. After a 10-0 run to start the second half, the Lady Coogs of Coach Jenny Garcia clamped down on defense, holding Econ to just four points in the third period and making the plays down the stretch to force Lady Jag turnovers and keep the tide turning their way.
When senior Odalys Luna barely beat the five-second inbounds count with a smart baseball pass long into the frontcourt inside the final 15 seconds, it looked done. However, the Lady Jags refused to die, getting one last possession with 0:04 left. Then they didn’t mind the clock and failed to get a look to try for the tying three-pointer, assuring the Lady Coog road victory.
Garcia has a bunch of promising youngsters to go with a few veterans such as Luna and rugged post Sariah Garza. Foremost among them Tuesday were quick little Jaily Rivera, who led all scorers with 16 points, and post Skye Ochoa, who hauled in seven rebounds and came up with three blocks. Ochoa’s contribution was key, as Garza was in foul trouble early (three in the first half) and was eventually disqualified with 1:25 to go. And both the sophs were active on D.
“We did do better in the second half, especially with defense,” said Garcia, whose team had split the last four league games with the Lady Jags after a long period of dominance in the rivalry. “We started playing together and believing we could win. We moved the ball around well, and we were able to get it done.”
The night did not begin well for North as one of the Lady Coogs limped off the court during warmups and was unable to compete. That left Garcia with nine players, but her counterpart, Mari Campos, claimed just 10. The Lady Jags are somewhat in the same boat as far as youth is concerned, with several 10th-grade rotation members to go with seasoned juniors Marsia Perez and Jasmine Loredo, the latter having returned to the team now after deciding not to give basketball up to concentrate on track and volleyball. Nice stroke for Econ there.
In her second game back, Loredo was outstanding at times. After North assumed a 12-9 lead after one period, Rivera tossing in eight points, Loredo started driving with authority. She got to the line seven times – making six free throws – in the second and soph Dana Serna hit for five points, giving the home side a 23-18 lead at the break.
North then came out and fired in a trio of threes to kickstart that 10-0 run for a 28-23 lead as Luna, Sam Aguilar and Rivera all connected from downtown. The Lady Coogs also continued to assert themselves on the boards with Garza (nine rebounds) plus Luna and Aguilar (eight each) helping the visitor to a plus-12 margin on the glass for the night.
The Lady Coogs held a 31-27 advantage entering the fourth quarter, a period which saw both squads struggle a bit with poise before settling in for a riveting last stretch. At 2:09 Serna (eight points, five boards) split a double-team and pulled up to can an 8-footer, giving her team a 33-32 lead.
But Zoey Gaytan calmly knocked in two free throws to put North back on top, and at the other end Garza emphatically snared a defensive rebound. After the Lady Coogs hit one of two free throws, Econ missed two, and for the night, neither quintet was golden from the stripe, Econ going 13 for 23 and North making seven of 16. When it counted it, though, Luna plunked in two charity tosses at 1:16, and the Lady Coogs hung on for the W.
Not to be overlooked Tuesday was a pair of kids who had sharp showings for Econ. Jaylene Corona led the team with nine rebounds and was pretty fearless on defense, while fellow soph Bianca Coronado came up with several steals, grabbed six caroms, and even did some credible defensive work inside against the North bigs when it was needed.
As stated, these two split their ball games the past two seasons, so getting a victory in the district opener was a key achievement for North. Having missed the playoffs the past four seasons, Garcia’s group is determined to make the grade in 2020-21. For the Lady Jags, who as stated had begun with three solid wins, it was a tough loss. Despite 14 points from Loredo, the Orange committed some damaging mistakes at the end of this one. Still, it’s been a positive start. The next challenge for Campos and Co. comes Friday at EHS, while North is at home against Mission the same night.