UPDATE: SAN BENITO EARNED THE 3-SEED IN THE NOR CAL PLAYOFFS AND
WILL HOST NO. 6 DEER VALLEY (22-7) ON TUESDAY IN HOLLISTER. TIP-OFF
IS AT 7 P.M.
Behind an 18-6 fourth-quarter performance, San Benito pushed
past Evergreen Valley with a 48-37 victory in the Central Coast
Section Division I championship Saturday night at Santa Clara
There seems to be a certain time in every basketball game when the pressures and nerves are noticeably lifted, when the eventual victor suddenly can’t do anything wrong, when the winning team can’t help but smile.
On Saturday night at Santa Clara University, in the Central Coast Division I championship, it all happened for the San Benito Lady ‘Balers, and it all happened in the fourth quarter.
But whether it came after Victoria Aguilera’s three-point play to open the period, or after Erin Glasspool’s baseline jumper that grazed the side of the backboard and still went in, or after Vanessa Farias threw the ball into the air as the final buzzer sounded, that undeniable feeling of victory did eventually set in for the Lady ‘Balers Saturday, and not even Evergreen Valley (23-6) could take it away.
The Lady ‘Balers (24-4) had so much fun winning the CCS title last year, they decided to do it all over again.
Trailing 31-30 going into the fourth quarter, top-seeded San Benito outscored No. 3 Evergreen Valley 18-6 in the final period en route to a 48-37 triumph that sealed the Lady ‘Balers’ second straight Central Coast Section title, iced the team’s second straight storybook season.
While seedings for this week’s Nor Cal playoffs will be announced today, San Benito spent Saturday night relishing its moment of back-to-back titles.
“They’re two totally different championships,” said the senior Adamek, who scored 10 of her 14 points in the second half Saturday. “Last year I looked up to all the seniors a lot, but it felt good this year a lot more because there was a lot of pressure on the seniors this year coming back.
“It just felt really good both years, but this year feels really good right now.”
The Lady ‘Balers were living in the moment, to say the least.
“To have an ‘X’ on your chest for 28 games, to know that every team is gonna come out and give you the hardest job possible, I’m just real proud with the way we played,” San Benito head coach David Kaplansky said.
“It feels really great,” said the sophomore Glasspool, who was soaking in the celebrations with it being her first year on the varsity team. The guard connected on a pair of 3-pointers, including one early on that led to a 7-0 start for San Benito in the first quarter.
“This one was more difficult,” said Farias, who scored nine of her game-high 15 points in the fourth quarter. “With [Evergreen Valley], it was back-and-forth for a while, back-and-forth – ‘Oh my God, they caught up!’ But in the end, we sealed the deal.”
Victory didn’t come nearly as easy as it did last year when the Lady ‘Balers defeated top-seeded Carlmont 54-43, trailing for less than three minutes of regulation. No, San Benito needed just about every ounce from every player in order to erase a five-point Cougar lead with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter – a narrow deficit that seemed almost insurmountable as the momentum quickly shifted toward Evergreen Valley and their clutch 3-point shooting.
But after Alyssa Prudencio’s (13 points) trey supplied the Cougars with a 29-24 lead at 2:59 in the third, Evergreen Valley went quiet. Over the next eight minutes of play, the Lady ‘Balers would go on an 18-2 run, including a 12-0 spurt to start the fourth quarter.
“I thought the difference in the game was that 12-0 run in the fourth quarter,” Kaplansky said. “The girls were resilient. We got the ball down on the block where their weak spot was, and the bigs really came in at the end of the game making their layups. I thought that was the difference in the game.”
While Glasspool’s banked-in shot from the paint ended the third quarter, with the Cougars still grasping to a 31-30 lead, Aguilera’s three-point play to open the fourth quickly set the tone for the remainder of the game.
After a pair of missed free throws by Cougar Samantha Grant, Adamek, who held a clear height advantage over anyone on Evergreen Valley’s roster, then followed with a short-range jumper in the paint – where nearly all of her 14 points came from.
“They have a lot of height on their team, and eventually it just got to us,” Evergreen Valley head coach Dan Johnson said afterward. “In the fourth quarter, it was almost all inside baskets by them.
“They’re a good team and they play good defense and they make it hard to score.”
Speaking of which, following a Cougar timeout Farias stole the inbounds pass for an easy layin, while Glasspool then followed with a jumper from the baseline that scraped the side of the backboard and still went in.
San Benito, rather all of a sudden, could do no wrong. Although the Lady ‘Balers opened the first quarter with an 11-4 lead, it was Evergreen Valley that controlled the next two quarters, more or less, outscoring San Benito 27-19.
That is, until the fourth quarter started.
“We didn’t let them get us out of our game,” Adamek said. “We focused on our game and realized that we needed to step it up. We came out strong at halftime, but it was a good comeback and I’m really proud of the girls.
“We all came out and played ‘Baler basketball, and that’s what it was all about.”
And ‘Baler basketball, roughly translated, means suffocating stalwart defense. Although Evergreen Valley still trailed by single digits at that point in the fourth quarter – 39-31 with 4:52 remaining – it seemed all too appropriate that San Benito delivered the dagger off a Kelsey Russell steal.
San Benito’s defense has never let down this season, and once Russell muscled the ball away from an attacking Cougar, Farias then drained a 3-pointer from the top of the arc on the ensuing possession, supplying the Lady ‘Balers with an 11-point cushion.
“As long as we play our defense,” Farias said. “That’s what we’re known for – defense. So we played our hard defense and it got us back in the game.”
And it also took Evergreen Valley right out of it. The Cougars went six minutes and 25 seconds without pocketing a point, including the first five minutes of the fourth quarter. Not until Jennifer Le’s (10 points) 3-pointer at the three-minute mark in the fourth did Evergreen Valley finally snap the cold streak.
By then, though, the feeling of victory was already instilled in San Benito.
“Once we started finding the shooter and recognizing the perimeter, it became very difficult for them to score,” said Kaplansky, whose Lady ‘Balers defeated Evergreen Valley 66-37 on New Year’s Eve at the Dons Club Holiday Tournament in Campbell.
“We gave up the same amount of points,” Kaplansky added.
“I felt like the difference in the game though, defensively – 37 points against a team that thrives on scoring, averaging 60 (points) a game.
“That’s what we’ve leaned on all year.”
And that will continue into the Nor Cal playoffs.
“We’re just gonna take it one game at a time,” Farias said. “Like coach always says.”
San Benito shot 35 percent (20 of 57) from the field, 5 of 12 from the free-throw line … Evergreen Valley shot 28 percent (14 of 50) from the field, 3 of 8 from the free-throw line … The Lady ‘Balers committed 11 turnovers, while the Cougars committed 13 … Although Lauren Adamek was the only San Benito bench player to score, her 14 points outscored Evergreen Valley’s entire bench by 10 … With the section title, the Lady ‘Balers will earn a home game in the Nor Cal playoffs, which will include such powerhouse programs as Danville’s Monte Vista, Antioch’s Deer Valley, Sacramento’s Kennedy, and Oakland’s Castlemont and McClymonds.
TEAM 1 2 3 4 F
EV 4 14 13 6 37
SB 11 8 11 18 48
Evergreen Valley (37): A. Prudencio 5-11 0-2 13, J. Cutia 1-2 0-0 3, S. Grant 0-5 2-4 2, L. Fiaui 4-10 0-0 8, C. Pham 0-5 1-2 1, J. Le 4-13 0-0 10.
Three-point goals: A. Prudencio 3, J. Cutia 1, J. Le 2.
San Benito (48): L. Adamek 7-17 0-3 14, V. Aguilera 2-7 1-1 5, M. Halstead 2-3 0-3 4, V. Farias 5-16 4-5 15, E. Glasspool 4-11 0-0 10.
Three-point goals: V. Farias 1, E. Glasspool 2.