Despite loss, Balers remember special moments

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Balers freshman Jocelyn Alexander did a nice job of playing point guard this season.

San Benito High girls basketball coach Mitch Burley summed it up best after the Haybalers’ loss to No. 11 seed Los Altos High last Friday in a Central Coast Section Division I playoff opener.

“Every game we’ve lost this year, it comes down to their (opponents’ full-court) pressure,” Burley said after a 41-27 loss in a CCS playoff opener. “I’ve been telling the girls for years, the key—especially girls basketball at San Benito—is can you handle the pressure? Can you not turn the ball over? Can you take care of the basketball? Can you get more shots and play good defense?”

The unseeded Balers (14-10) accomplished most of those things in the affirmative in the first and third quarters, but not so much in the second and fourth quarters. San Benito scored just one point in the second quarter and two in the fourth quarter, but despite the offensive scoring woes, it had control for the first 2 ½ quarters and was seemingly in position to win the game.

San Benito led 25-23 entering the final quarter when the wheels fell off, as Los Altos finished the game on an 18-2 run. Kaiya Dickens led the team with 12 points, and she’ll once again be the team’s top returner next season along with point guard Jocelyn Alexander, who had a terrific freshman season. More than the games, Burley said the team had a number of bonding moments. Of course, some of the games proved to be memorable as well.

“When you look back at the season, you look at the moments that stood out,” he said. “We had a game in the Del Mar tournament playing Leigh where we scored 12 points in the first half. At halftime I told the girls that I wasn’t worried because we’re going to score 52 points and we’re going to win. We ended up scoring 53—41 points in the second half—and won. I told the girls, ‘See, I told you what was going to happen and we did it.'”

Another highlight was the Balers’ 56-33 win over Monte Vista Christian, and, of course, the 56-54 upset victory over Salinas on Feb. 3. The win avenged a 13-point loss to Salinas just weeks earlier, and dealt Salinas just its second loss in league play at the time.

“Beating Salinas was the one moment when you saw the potential of the team,” Burley said. “Moments like that were incredible. And beating MVC (Monte Vista Christian) by 18 points when we were coming off a 20-point loss to Notre Dame, which had beaten MVC made me think, ‘Oh boy, we’re in trouble.’ But the girls really stepped up and played well. So we had those moments. But more than that, we’ll look back and remember the van rides, the team dinners, all that stuff. That was what this team was good at. They all got along and most of them have been friends their whole lives. There was a real good camaraderie, and maybe they didn’t win all the games they wanted to, but it’s these moments they’ll remember years from now more than the games.”

San Benito will graduate senior starters Jay Trejo and Drew Barragan along with reserve Francesca Giannotta. Burley said the team’s top three players on the junior varsity team were freshmen, and they’ll have the potential to make an impact next season on the varsity squad. For now, they’ll reflect on another solid season, one that ended with a CCS playoff appearance.

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