Composure. In Head Coach Jose Herrera’s eyes, this was the reason why the Lady Aztecs were able to pull out the 72-56 win against Tesoro High School on Saturday night.
Facing a tough team in a hostile environment, the Lady Aztecs had their work cut out for them as they looked to pull out a victory against the Lady Titans. “This was nothing new to us,” says Coach Herrera. “This year, our schedule prepared us to face these kinds of circumstances; traveling to Vegas, Stockton and Ventura, so we’re used to this. All we had to do was make sure we stuck to the game plan, which we did and it was well executed.”
The teams traded baskets to start the game, and the score remained tight throughout the first quarter. Keppel began to build a lead, but Tesoro came storming back and went into halftime only trailing by four points.
The teams continued to battle in the second half, but the Lady Aztecs always maintained a small lead. By the end of the third quarter, the Lady Aztecs had extended their lead to double digits and were able to keep it that way for the rest of the game. The winning effort was largely due to the scoring of the starting five, as they scored 57 of the team’s 72 points.
“We knew that the ball only went through one girl on Tesoro, so we did a better job containing her defensively. We made smarter decisions and then opened up key shots that allowed us to pull away,” says senior Jocelyn Song.
While the Lady Aztecs had an easy time dealing with the Cypress Lady Centurions on Thursday, the fact that they had to put up a harder fight today was no surprise to Coach Herrera. “It’s always going to get harder as you advance in the playoffs because you’re not going to be able to beat each team by fifty,” says Coach Herrera. “Tesoro was very good across the board and they gave us a good run, but we were able to capitalize with our speed and get out in transition, and that was the big difference.”
With the win, the Lady Aztecs have now won the first two rounds of CIF, but the team is making sure to not let the victories get to their head. Coach Herrera emphasizes the importance of taking things one game at a time, but junior Mia Heidt believes that, “it is very important for us to keep our composure and not focus on our past wins because anything can happen in the 32 minutes of the ball game. All we can do is give it our one hundred percent.”
With this mindset, Keppel now shifts their focus to their next game against Newbury Park on Wednesday night. The Lady Aztecs faced off against the Lady Panthers two years ago when they were ranked number one in the state, but were able to upset them on their home court. The Lady Panthers will undoubtedly be looking for revenge, but the Lady Aztecs are up to the challenge to keep their season alive.
“We know it is going to be a battle, but if we are able to do the same thing we did against Tesoro; exploit their zone and get them to turn over the ball when we press them, we should be okay,” says Coach Herrera.