JUCO Hoops: Gavilan women fall short in finale

Gavilan's Felicia Lee-Cardenas looks to drive around her Lassen College defender during their Jan. 5 game.

GILROY—Gavilan’s Felicia Lee-Cardenas led a second-half charge that saw the Rams almost erase a 20-point deficit. But the home team fell just short, losing 62-57 in the season finale Friday.
“They were resilient and even when they were down (by 20 points) we still believed and we kept battling and we kept chipping away at it,” Gavilan coach Erik Nelson said.
Lee-Cardenas scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half and obtained some help from Natalia Armstrong, who finished the night with 11 points.
Gavilan capitalized on its five first-half 3-pointers to jump out to a lead. The 3s helped counteract a tough MPC defense which limited the Rams to just four field goals in the half.
The Lobos trailed for most of the first half, but finished with an 8-0 run to take the lead 24-23 at the half—and they didn’t look back.
Feeding off from the rhythm at the end of the first half, the Lobos put together a 19-2 run to begin the second half and eventually increased the lead to 20.
Armstrong took it upon herself to stop the game from getting out of hand. She penetrated into the paint and completed a three-point play when she made the free throw after getting fouled.
“We played a great half for about 18 and half minutes. We let the (MPC) shooters get some open looks. That hurt us,” Nelson said.
Sophomore Kelsey Caudill added: “Up until the very end (of the first half) we played with a lot of teamwork and a lot of heart.”
Now, Gavilan had to play catch up.
Having stopped the Lobos’ offense, the Rams went to work. They put together a 9-0 run with three consecutive 3s to pull within 11 points. Gavilan hit nine 3-point baskets in the game.
“We just came out and attacked,” Gavilan’s Desirae Canela said. “That was there for us (3-point shooting) so we just took it.”
The Rams gave it one last push with a minute remaining and put together a 7-1 run to stay within three with 11 seconds on the clock.
Unfortunately for the Rams, that’s as close as they’d get.
“We have to give a full 40 minutes of effort, energy, and execution to keep up with that team,” Nelson said.
Looking to next season, the Rams will lose three key players: sophomores Armstrong, Caudill and Lee-Cardenas.
“The sophomores were amazing…they helped put the program in the map,” Nelson said. “The freshmen will be battle tested, (and) will be ready to go next year. I’m really grateful for what the players have done between the lines. It’s all about them.”
The Rams finish the season with an overall record of 7-16 and 2-8 in the Coast Conference-South.
Though its been a tough two seasons, Caudill said she’s learned a lot of lessons through the struggles.
“I learned some mental toughness and to play with heart whether you’re winning or losing,” she said.

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