After a one point fourth-quarter lead turned into a 15-point loss to North Salinas on Tuesday, one of the last things the San Benito girls basketball team wanted to do was blow another fourth quarter lead.
But with seven straight points by Gilroy High to open the fourth quarter, cutting the Balers’ lead to 32-24, the Balers almost suffered a case of deja vu.
However, the Balers learned from their league-opening loss and put away the short-handed Mustangs 44-30 on Thursday in Hollister.
After giving up 13 fourth-quarter points, San Benito head coach Mitch Burley said he hopes the girls continue to improve at the end of the game.
“I wish we played more efficiently,” he said. “I’m not completely satisfied.”
The victory, though, evens up San Benito’s Tri-County Athletic League record at 1-1 and drops the former league champions to the same record.
Gilroy, which was again without leading-scorer and all-leaguer Michelle Sosa, continued to fight despite its shortcomings, Mustangs head coach Kort Jensen said.
“We are still learning because our two best players – our two best guards – are out with season-ending injuries, so without those two players we are struggling,” he said. “We are playing a lot of sophomores, and they are coming along. To come to Hollister is tough.”
On the defensive end, the Mustangs corralled San Benito sharpshooter Taylor Fabing, holding her to 10 points, but they couldn’t find an answer for senior Kelsey Robledo, who scored 16.
Robledo dominated the middle of the court for the Balers, scoring eight of the team’s first nine points, and was the teams main offensive focal point and spark.
After nearly four minutes of scoreless basketball to open the game, Robledo hit four straight baskets and allowed San Benito to calm down and build its lead.
“It gave us al little bit of confidence,” she said. “It got a little spark underneath us, because we were able to have fun with a lead. It’s not fun being down.”
She continued, “It got us going.”
The boost came after Burley realized the Balers struggled to find open shots from the floor, he said.
“Today, they (Gilroy) went zone the whole time and we couldn’t hit a jumper and I finally said we have to get it to Kelsey,” Burley said. “And she makes the next three shots. That got us going.”
San Benito eventually built a 16-5 lead before heading into halftime.
In the second half, Gilroy began to turn up its defensive tempo – spreading its zone across the entire court to force San Benito into turnovers. In return, the Balers struggled to move the ball down the court.
On the Gilroy’s offensive end, Ashlee Williams began to take control of the game. Using her size, Williams inched Gilroy closer and scored 14 second-half points, bringing her game total to 16.
“The first half, it wasn’t my best,” she said. “I don’t know where I was but my coach got on me and told me to pick it up. We don’t have a lot of older people to lead so I need to get us going. I need to step it up and hopefully they will pick it up to.”
And at the end of the third quarter and the beginning minutes of the fourth quarter, her teammates did.
With four minutes left in regulation, Gilroy pulled to within eight points.
“We were behind so we needed to pick up the tempo and try to get some steals and some easy points,” Jensen said. “We weren’t scoring very well against their man defense. So if we could push the tempo, we could get the ball and get some easy lay-ups.”
Most of the lay-ups came from Williams.
“In the second half, she did great,” Jensen said. “The first half, it was my fault. I didn’t have them ready to play. The second half, she got into the game.”
It was too late for the Mustangs to win the game, but getting closer to San Benito in the end helps builds the young team’s confidence, Jensen said.
“It’s really important to build their confidence, and not just build their confidence, but to have fun,” he said.
For San Benito, now 8-6 overall, the win will hopefully propels them into the league season, Burley said.
San Benito continues league play Tuesday, when they travel to Notre Dame. The game starts at 7 p.m.
The Mustangs host North Salinas at 7 p.m. Tuesday.