‘Balers Steamroll Sobrato to Pocket First TCAL Win
Hollister – Their smiles said it all.

Walking off the court, the Haybalers could breathe a sigh of relief. After having its way with visiting Sobrato for four quarters, the San Benito girls basketball team secured its first victory in the Tri-County Athletic League this season.


The ‘Balers had been building up to this for quite some time. Blowout losses to Gilroy and North Salinas to start the year left San Benito reeling, but the team regrouped to nearly knock off Live Oak on the road last Friday. After overwhelming the young Bulldogs to emerge with a 49-15 win last night, the ‘Balers were just glad to get the monkey off their back.

“We needed this win–there’s no doubt about it,” said San Benito head coach Al Rowe, whose team improved to 1-3 in league play. “I could see it on their faces. They were tired of getting their butts kicked. They didn’t want to lose.”

“It’s big,” said ‘Balers junior Jordan Lee. “We really wanted this win. We just needed it to boost our confidence.”

When it strolled to midcourt for the opening tip, San Benito found itself matched up against a team even more inexperienced than it is. Competing in its first varsity season, Sobrato (6-8, 0-3 TCAL) employs a starting lineup consisting entirely of freshmen and sophomores, and counts three juniors as its upperclassmen.

The ‘Balers, who have first-hand knowledge of the struggles inherent in building a team on the fly, were more than happy to enjoy life in the penthouse for a change.

San Benito (7-9) set the tone for its romp in the first quarter, when it began to conquer its No. 1 nemesis–the turnover. After subjecting themselves to a season-long uphill climb by averaging more than 30 turnovers per contest in the TCAL, the ‘Balers enjoyed the fruits of controlling the ball. Committing just three turnovers in the opening period, San Benito opened up a 14-7 lead, a margin aided by two foul-line jumpers by freshman guard Vanessa Farias.

“It was talking to each other and passing well,” said San Benito freshman Megan Halstead of the difference between this and earlier games.

On the night, the ‘Balers coughed up the ball just 16 times–a turnaround Rowe would love to see his team continue.

“It’s a 2-4 point swing every turnover you make,” said Rowe, who detailed the lost offensive opportunity plus the likelihood of giving up a basket and/or a foul in scrambling back on defense. “They just kill you.”

With a comfortable lead in hand, San Benito took advantage of its chance to get everyone minutes. The ‘Balers’ well-rounded attack was epitomized in this game–all ten active players scored. (Freshman guard Symone Baker remains sidelined with an ankle injury.)

And after struggling to find a consistent inside game in earlier contests, the ‘Balers were especially encouraged to repeatedly find open post players for baskets.

The practice reps paid off late in the second quarter when senior Ari Romero, receiving the ball at the left elbow, passed inside to forward Ashley Patton. Rather than forcing an awkward shot with Sobrato’s half-court defense set, Patton looked even further down the paint to find sophomore Ali Sharp on the left block for an easy lay-up.

“We found some good open looks when no one was on us,” said Halstead, who finished with five points and four rebounds.

After taking a 24-11 halftime lead, San Benito used its ever-improving defense to hold the Bulldogs to four points in the second half. Rowe was pleased with his team’s performance in executing its trapping defense and more conventional half-court sets.

“We’ve been working hard on our press, getting better angles,” said Rowe. “They’re covering more ground, anticipating better.”

Said Sobrato head coach Rodney Tabares: “[The ‘Balers] knew where to be at the right time of the play.”

San Benito sophomore guard Elena Fata led all scorers with 11 points, while Farias finished with nine points, five rebounds and four steals. Patton contributed game highs of seven rebounds and three blocks, to go with her five points, and senior Ari Romero collected five steals.

Bulldogs freshman forward Michelle Bradley led her team with six points, as the ‘Balers clamped down to allow their season low in points.

“We have no seniors, so … we have no leaders on the floor,” said Tabares, whose team is still looking for its first TCAL win. “We lack composure down the stretch.”

With its feel-good victory in the books, San Benito is hopeful that its hard work will pay off with a similar result as the team travels to Salinas tomorrow.

“We’re all just trying to mesh together,” said Sharp, who finished with four points and six rebounds. “We’re getting there. Hopefully, we’re going to turn it around now.”

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


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