Prep Basketball: Christopher’s season ends in thriller with Pioneer

Christopher's Teresa Guerra battles for control of a rebound with Pioneer during their second round Central Coast Section playoff game at Pioneer High School in San Jose Feb. 26.

SAN JOSE—Christopher was six minutes away from advancing to the quarterfinals, but Pioneer wasn’t about to go away quietly.
The No. 6 Mustangs went on a 9-0 run midway through the fourth quarter, lifting them to a 65-53 win over Cougars in the second round of the Central Coast Section Division II playoffs Thursday at Pioneer.
Christopher trailed by four to start the final frame and played focused, disciplined basketball to aid its rally. Pioneer’s Franchesca Ortega opened with a basket and Haley Romero answered to get her team within two. Teresa Guerra then scored four consecutive points for the Cougars to give her team a 49-47 lead. Unfortunately for CHS, it would be its last lead of the game.
Christopher found itself in extreme foul trouble and the Mustangs took full advantage of that. The Cougars tallied 23 fouls in the game to Pioneer’s 18. Guerra said, her team had to adjust their usually aggressive style defense to keep from fouling out and this gave Pioneer more room to knock down big shots.
And it did.
The Mustangs’ AJ Leasau hit three 3-point baskets in the fourth and scored 10 of her 25 total points to lift her team to victory.
“I hate to use excuses, but there’s two things that happened,” Cougars coach Robert Otis said. “The refs played a role in the game, but I have to give it up to Pioneer because they made big shots. That’s what it boiled down to: they made some big shots down the stretch where they took the lead and that was the difference in the game.”
Pioneer had several chances to pull away, but Christopher was resilient. The Mustangs scored six unanswered points to take a 37-29 lead in the third and were playing a trap-style defense to shut down the Cougars’ shooters. Christopher quickly adjusted and went on a 7-0 run—thanks to Guerra and Christa Arroyo—to cut Pioneer’s lead to 37-36. The two teams exchanged leads until Trinity Stark pulled down a big rebound and scored to tie the game at 43-all. Pioneer’s Ava Enjavi knocked down a shot as the clock wound down to her team a two-point lead and Guerra tried to answer at the buzzer, but her shot fell just short.
“What was going through my mind was ‘we got this game. We’re in it, we’ve just got to keep fighting’ and that’s what we did,” Guerra said. “We didn’t back down; we didn’t roll over like dogs. We played really good and I’m proud of us for that.”
It was a similar situation in the second period for Christopher. After exchanging leads to start, Pioneer attempted to close the door and took a 29-23 lead late. A freethrow from Start and a big 3-point basket from Arroyo with 45 seconds left in the half kept the Cougars in the game, trailing 31-27 at halftime.
“We knew that this was probably the most intense game (we’ve played) and that Pioneer was a great team,” Arroyo said. “We just tried to leave it all on the court—that’s what we say at the beginning of every game.”
Guerra and Starks led Christopher with 17 points apiece. Arroyo was close behind with 16 points in the game.
It was a fairytale season for the Cougars who started the season 0-7. They finish 8-16 overall, but making the CCS playoffs was the icing on the cake.
“It’s been a journey,” Arroyo said. “We started off iffy about how we were playing on the court, still getting used to each other because we got a lot of new players. Near the middle of league, we started playing together and that’s when we started developing. We started acting as a team and playing as a team and communicating more.”

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