JUCO Basketball: Rams capitalize on big second half to top Lassen

Gavilan Rams

GILROY—With one steal, Gavilan’s Brittany Valdez changed the entire game.
The freshman point guard stopped Lassen College in its tracks with a big steal in the final minutes of the first half. From there, the Rams cut the Cougars lead from seven points to four at halftime and used that momentum to play a dominant second half.
The Rams, who trailed by as much nine points in the first half, outscored Lassen by 25 after the break en route to a 64-43 win Monday at Gavilan.
“I think we were hungry and we played our hearts out—that’s what coach teaches us, he preps us that way,” Valdez said. “Our captain over here (Felicia Lee-Cardenas), she helps us out and keeps us motivated.”
At halftime, Gavilan coach Erik Nelson told him team it needed to establish control in the opening minutes of the second half. The Rams rose to the challenge, scoring nine unanswered points to take a 29-24 lead—their first of the game—thanks to baskets from Katrina Diaz, Greer Watson and Lee-Cardenas.
The Rams put the pressure on defensively and didn’t allow a Lassen score until almost four minutes had passed in the second. Taylor O’Daye hit a 3-point basket to get the Cougars to within two, 29-27, but Diaz answered quickly with a score of her own.
Lee-Cardenas, Watson and Brianna Barron all found the basket for Gavilan as the team scored 14 points for which Lassen had no answer. The defense effectively silenced the Cougars until the 12-minute mark when they scored back-to-back 3-pointers from Deja Brown and Kyana Scott to get to within 10, trailing 46-36—the closest they’d be for the remainder of the game. Scott led the Cougars with 15 points, 13 rebounds and four steals.
“I think we had the sense of urgency that we needed in order to get the ‘W’, but we’re still working on having that for a full 40 minutes,” Nelson said. “We still have a lot of improvements that we need to make, but I was really impressed with their resiliency coming into that second half and taking it to another level.”
The defensive pressure made it hard for Lassen to get in position to score. Scott got her team within 12 points with a lay-up basket, but Lee-Cardenas answered with one of her own before being fouled. She completed the 3-point play to give Gavilan a 53-38 lead and shut the door on a Cougar comeback.
Lee-Cardenas led the team with 16 points in addition to seven rebounds, three assists and two steals. Diaz chipped in with 15 points—all scored in the second half—six rebounds and two steals for the Rams. Kelsey Caudill posted 14 points, including two 3-pointers, and added three assists.
“We really wanted to win, so we pulled ourselves together. We just played as a team and we able to grind this one out,” Lee-Cardenas said. “Once we get a couple steals and we get the bench into it and we get into it on the floor, it was just a whole different ballgame. We’re so pumped and we just want to go after it.”
Aiding the Rams to victory was their excellent ball movement. They played unselfish basketball which led to almost every player scoring at least two points.
While Valdez only scored four points, she was instrumental defensively. The first-year Ram grabbed 10 boards and five steals. She also had six assists.
This was Gavilan’s (5-9) final game before it opens Coast Conference play at 5 p.m. Wednesday against Mission College (11-8) at home.
Nelson said this final preseason win was just what the doctor ordered as his team prepares for conference action.
“To get a little momentum and do some things that we’ve been trying to do in the preseason heading into that game is big,” the Rams coach said. “The next few games are big for us, heading into Mission here and Hartnell on the road (5 p.m., Jan. 9). Those are some opportunities for us to rise to the occasion. It’s a goal of ours to string these types of games together and not have a game like this and then go down. Hopefully we can do that.”

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