LAFAYETTE — Excellent basketball always makes teams better in the long run, no matter what point in the season they happen.
On Wednesday night at Centaurus High School, both the Warriors and No. 6 Holy Family girls basketball got a little bit better in the hard-fought, 53-44 victory for the Tigers. Holy Family had to work for every point it earned, especially when Centaurus closed the gap to a single basket late in the fourth quarter.
“They came to play, give them credit,” Holy Family head coach Ron Rossi said. “They played hard. They played smart. I give credit to their program because we had to make a really good effort to beat them. Once again, this team is finding their identity that it’s not offense, it’s defense that wins games. That was the difference today.”
Both teams saw major production from multiple ladies as seven players put up double-digit performances. The Tigers enjoyed top-notch efforts from junior point guard Mariah Quintana and sophomore shooting guard Essynce Contreraz, who netted 11 points apiece, as junior small forward Fiona Snashall and senior center Maggie Dooley each added 10 more. Dooley took care of the charity stripe as the rest of the ladies sunk most of their points from the floor.
On the other side of the ball, Centaurus junior shooting guard Laura Gensert led everyone with 15 points as juniors Sam Sterritt and Alexa Lorton followed her lead with 14 and 12 points, respectively.
“I say (our speed, steals and defense) define us the most because a lot of teams are big but they’re not as fast as us,” Contreraz said. “We have Julia (Hodell) who’s super, super fast and Mariah who’s super fast as well. And then we have me on top of it. We have our bigs that can just feed us off of rebounds and we take off. From us just running up and down, no team can stop us if we keep doing that.”
The Tigers jumped out to an early lead thanks to relentless pressure from Contreraz, who scored six straight points en route to the opening 7-0 advantage.
Then Snashall and Julia Hodell got in on the action. The Tigers led by as many as 13 points before the Warriors — read, Gensert — really started to heat up. She took care of downtown while Sterritt and Lorton worked on an inside job together to systematically cut the deficit down.
The Tigers led 25-19 at the midway break, but Centaurus didn’t make the rest of the game easy on them.
Throughout the second half, the Warriors started taking the ball to the post a little more as Sterritt and Lorton took charge of the offense. They closed the deficit to just a single possession, 41-39, late in the fourth quarter.
“It really feels great,” Gensert said. “I have to say I was kind of worried about this one just because we’ve struggled playing against their pressure in the past. We had a little bit of a rough start, but I think we rose up to their pressure. It was a good team effort.”
Quintana put an end to that with a flawless 3-pointer just a few seconds later. That shot, as well as key defensive plays down the stretch, helped secure the Tigers’ seventh victory of the season (7-1) as the Warriors fell to 5-4 through a grueling schedule.
Holy Family will return to action on Wednesday, Dec. 12 when it hosts Skyline. Centaurus will host eighth-ranked Thompson Valley on Saturday afternoon.
“I’m proud that we get down (7-0) and it’s an even game the rest of the way,” Centaurus head coach Chris Mischke said. “We have such a brutal schedule coming up and it’s not going to get any easier. We’ve got to play well to beat these teams. It was clear tonight that we didn’t play well enough.”