Christopher's Haylee Peterson jumps up for a shot as Gilroy's
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The Christopher High girls basketball team shot out to an 11-0 lead midway through the first quarter, held that same-sized advantage at the half, carried a nine-point cushion into the final quarter and led by 14 with 3:45 to play in the game. As that saying goes, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Especially when it involves CHS and Gilroy High, where it has become the norm to expect just about anything.

An already up-tempo game hit a furious pace over the final four minutes and the outcome remained in doubt until Dejah Raoof and Haylee Peterson each converted a pair of free throws to preserve a 51-44 Cougars’ victory over the Mustangs.

“Christopher High is really good, they are very well coached, they space the floor well, so full credit to them. They beat us,” GHS head coach Kort Jensen said. “I really felt, even though we dug a hole, I felt confident because we can press pretty hard. And we started to do that late in the game.”

With the game seemingly out of reach, Athena Alarcon and Ashlee Williams combined for 10 points in an 11-0 run that brought the Mustangs (5-2) to within three points – 47-44 – with 1:55 on the clock.

“Coach was just pushing us, telling us to go get it,” Alarcon said. “Once we got into our routine of pressing the ball, we just pushed and pushed.”

Despite not making a basket from the floor over the final three-plus minutes, due in large part to GHS’s press defense, the Cougars did ramp up their own defense down the stretch and held on.

“I like that they stuck with it, and that’s what they tend to do. But we have to stop giving away leads,” said CHS head coach Heather Stewart, whose Cougars were one the back end of two straight contests. “We do that with our turnovers. You can’t have 37 turnovers in a game and not expect to the other team to make runs. So taking care of the basketball is going to be our big thing. This is now the third game where we have given up leads and made it close at the end.”

Ball security lacked on both sides, each a bit loose with the possessions. Gilroy’s turnovers facilitated the early 11-0 CHS lead as the Cougars exchanged the steals for easy points at the other end.

Trailing 29-19 late in the second quarter, the Mustangs, who are already without senior point guard Michelle Sosa, suffered another blow when top-scorer Kaylana Mah, who had 11 points already, went down with a sprained ankle.

Despite Mah’s absence, the Mustangs kept tabs on the Cougars (4-2) and after an Alarcon bucket they were down just 33-28. However, Hanna Tabron, who paced all scorers with a game-high 23 points, drained back-to-back 3-pointers for a 40-31 lead heading into the hectic final period.

“We kind of let it slip for a little bit, but once we felt them coming at our backs, we were like, ‘OK, we aren’t going to lose this,’” Caradonna said. “This just shows that we have the talents but we need to work on our turnovers and the little things.”

Caradonna finished with six points and Merrett Brown had nine for the Cougars. For GHS, Williams posted 17 points and Alarcon 12 points.

The Cougars continue nonleague play against a perennially tough North Salinas squad on Tuesday, while the Mustangs don’t see the court again until the first round of the Seaside Sweet 16 Tournament on Dec. 26. GHS is the defending champion.

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