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December 3, 2023

Lady ‘Balers continue playoff run

San Benito makes it three in a row against Gilroy after 63-44
San Benito’s defense was just about everywhere during Saturday afternoon’s Central Coast Section quarterfinal playoff game with the Gilroy Mustangs.

Swarming to the ball for all four quarters, the Lady ‘Balers forced Gilroy into 29 turnovers on their way to a 63-44 win at Milpitas High School.

“I think playing [Gilroy] twice and seeing them (beat Watsonville in the second round of the playoffs) allowed me to get a good perspective of what they do,” San Benito coach David Kaplansky said. “We’re at our best when we’re forcing people to turn the ball over.”

The Mustangs had trouble getting into their halfcourt sets throughout the first half due to a full-court man-to-man press by the Lady ‘Balers, with 17 turnovers – including nine San Benito steals – stalling Gilroy’s ability to match baskets.

Leading 20-12 after the first quarter, San Benito increased its lead to 37-23 by halftime.

“They came right out and pushed us because they knew our last game we scored a lot of points,” Gilroy coach James Wilkins said. “They brought that tempo right back at us.”

The Lady ‘Balers went on a 13-2 run to start the second half, pushing their lead to 50-25. The Mustangs cut that deficit to 16, at 52-36, by the beginning of the fourth quarter, but would get no closer.

It was the third time this season San Benito beat Gilroy in as many meetings.

San Benito’s Bri Romero was the game’s high scorer with 20 points to go with four rebounds and three steals. Other Lady ‘Balers in double-figures included Elena Fata with 14 points and Vanessa Farias with 12. Megan Halstead, Kelsey Russell and Victoria Aguilera had four, five and six points, respectively, and Lauren Ademek had a basket to round out all scorers for San Benito.

Having nine days to prepare for the game certainly helped San Benito, which also used the prospect of matching up with the Mustangs as motivation.

“It feels really good,” Romero said. “We wanted to face Gilroy just because of that rivalry.”

Gilroy’s high scorer for the game was freshman guard Ashley Lampert with nine points, all coming on 3-pointers. She was followed by Angela Silveira and Chelsea Hill, each with eight points. Vanessa Wilkins had an all-around game for Gilroy with seven points, 12 rebounds, and five assists and Lindsey Foster finished with six points and eight rebounds.

While Gilroy’s players were sad to see their season come to an end, as well as the GHS careers of Silveira, Wilkins, Breanna Mah and Stephanie Solorio (four points), there were still plenty of positives to be taken from making it the quarterfinals.

“We did absolutely well as a team,” Vanessa Wilkins said. “We never gave up on one another.”

Coach Wilkins agreed, saying the Mustangs made the most of their 12-14 season.

“We stuck with it, even with the bad things that happened this season,” he said. “We weren’t even supposed to be here.”

While Gilroy will now reflect on the year that was, San Benito’s focus shifts to Piedmont Hills (19-10), which it will play in Wednesday’s semifinal at 5:30 p.m., at Milpitas High.

“We’re going to take this game and enjoy it, prepare for Wednesday and hopefully move on to the championship,” Kaplansky said.

While Romero wasn’t willing to forecast a CCS title, she did say her squad was confident that it could be done.

“I don’t really like to predict,” Romero said. “We’re just going to go out there and give it our all.”

Josh Koehn
Josh Koehn
A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.

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