Trailing 39-34 at halftime, Sonora surged right by Weston Ranch with a 14-3 to open the third period and looked like it may pull away.
“It was definitely the halftime talk,” said Wildcat star Bailey Henington. “Coach Santos gives us talks at halftime and they always work. … Everybody comes out really strong. We were in the right places at the right times and we were working the ball around. It was really good.”
Henington gave the Wildcats a 43-42 lead, their first since early in the second period. The junior guard grabbed a defensive rebound and drove coast-to-coast for an off-balance layup and a foul. She converted the freebie for the lead.
Henington finished with a co-game-high 24 points and also led the Wildcats with six rebounds, five assists and two steals.
“Bailey is the kind of player where you know you’re getting a good game from her,” Santos said. “She dished the ball well, we were able to convert some stuff off her passes. She was great.”
After the Wildcats built their 6-point lead, 48-42, the Cougars closed the third period on a 13-3 run to reclaim the lead, 55-51, heading into the final period.
Sonora closed the gap to one, 57-56, with 5:30 left after Leah Dambacher hauled in an offensive rebound and made the putback. But the Wildcats would get no closer.
“I feel like we prepared ourselves very, very well for this game,” Henington said. “It’s hard not getting our way. When you put your whole heart into something and it doesn’t go your way, it’s really hard to take. But it was a really good game and I’m proud of how we played.”
Sonora was the aggressor early, jumping out to a 6-3 lead on a bucket by Shea Stead and 8-5 on a hoop by Sandra Renda.
Maria Chacon grabbed an offensive rebound and tossed in a layup for a 16-13 Wildcat advantage.
But Weston Ranch kept battling and canned a trey at the buzzer to lead 17-16.
The teams traded baskets for the first few minutes of the second period and Hannah Garrett’s jumper gave Sonora its last lead, 27-26, until the Wildcat’s second-half surge.
“I thought we played with heart, the score just didn’t end our way, but we definitely gave it our all,” said Stead, who finished with 17 points, including a pair of 3-pointers in the second period. “They’re a good team. They’re experienced, big, they’ve played together for awhile and we’re a young team and we haven’t developed that far yet. But we will. This is our first league game, we’re definitely gonna grow from here.”
For Sonora (7-4, 0-1 VOL), Renda scored seven points and grabbed a co-team-high six boards, Dambacher had five points and five rebounds, Chacon added five points and a pair of assists and sophomore Michelle Ries netted four points, grabbed three boards and dished two assists.
Weston Ranch (7-3, 1-0 VOL) was led by Rauline Martinez with 24 points, six rebounds and seven steals and A. J. Brown’s 20 points and seven rebounds.
“It’s a hard loss to take because we put so much into this and the girls put everything on the court,” Santos said. “But we’re gonna show what kind of character we have and bounce back from this.”
“What’s good,” Henington said, “is we get another shot at them.”