First things first: Sonora senior guard Tyler Swycinsky does not give out stock market tips nor will she make any guesses on next week's winning lottery numbers.
"No stock picks or anything else," said Sonora senior guard Maddie Pallante. "Tyler only makes predictions on basketball scores."
"Just basketball predictions," echoed Swycinsky.
But Tyler Swycinksy is very, very good at that.
On Wednesday night, Swycinsky predicted that Sonora would defeat its upcoming-opponent Oakdale by 30 points.
On Friday night at Bud Castle Gym, in its regular-season finale, Sonora defeated Oakdale 53-22 - a 31-point victory.
"I think that's what fired us up so much tonight," said Pallante, who
scored a game-high 12 points and had four rebounds. "Tyler said we'd
beat them by 30 so we made sure we did."
"We did not want to let Oakdale beat us," said Sonora senior
forward Jade Mena. "This was our last home game and it was 'Senior
Night.' Plus, Tyler saying in the paper (The Union Democrat, Feb. 16)
that we'd beat them by 30 points meant ... we had to do that! We were counting down the points all the way to the end."
As a salute to her eight seniors, Wildcat head coach Amy Santos
made certain that five seniors started and the other three were first
subs. And in the game's final few minutes, Santos made sure all eight
again received playing time.
"I was thinking that if I was a senior playing my last home game,"
said Santos, "I would want to be on the court at the end. All eight of
them mean so much to me - they are each such outstanding leaders to our
younger players - and all eight deserved to be out there at the end."
With 2:15 to play, Swycinsky tossed a cross-court pass to Pallante
- who promptly swished a trey. Sonora then led by 27 points, 49-22.
"Three more!" came the collective yell from Sonora's bench.
Sonora senior forward Anneka Pisula scored on an offensive-board putback with 1:37 left and the lead was 29.
"One more, Tyler!" was the roar from Sonora's bench.
"Yes," said Swycinksy with a smile. "I could hear my teammates
while I was out on the court. They didn't want me to look like an idiot
- that was the bottom line. And I didn't want to look like one either."
With 11 seconds left, Sonora senior guard Elise Amend was in the backcourt and spotted Pisula sprinting forward.
"Yep," said Amend, "we were going for it, I knew I had to push that ball up and I saw Anneka."
Bingo! Amend connected with Pisula on the dead run - then Pisula banked home a five-footer.
"I didn't know why everybody was yelling so much when I was
shooting that ball," said Pisula, who grabbed a game-high eight
rebounds and scored seven points. "But after I hit that shot, then I
figured it out."
With the win, Sonora upped its overall record to 14-11 (6-8 Valley
Oak League) and improved its postseason positioning. Sonora is ranked
No. 12 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Championships and will
travel on Tuesday to face No. 5 Ripon. Oakdale, a larger Division III
school, finished 4-22 (0-14 VOL).
On Friday night, Sonora came out all guns blazing.
Oakdale was immediately bombarded with Sonora's full-court
take-no-prisoners blitzkrieg press. Sonora's starters looked like five
piranhas chasing guppies.
"We know we have a strong defense and we just decided that we'd stop them right away," said Mena.
Oakdale's first shot attempt was mercilessly swatted away by Mena.
Not in my gym!
Midway through that first quarter, Mena again skied, blocked an
Oakdale shot and grabbed the ball in mid-air. Sonora then worked its
offense with precision, Pallante had an open look from 9-feet away and
she drained it.
"All night," said Swycinsky, "we were running our offensive plays really well and everyone seemed to be making their shots."
Up 6-0, Amend, from out of bounds, looked right then tossed left to
Pisula. After Amend jumped back in bounds, Pisula made a quick feed to
Amend and set a forceful pick. Thus Amend had a wide-open 17-foot
baseline shot - and she swished it.
At the 1:20 mark, Wildcat senior forward Marie Marinovich entered
this contest and got her first rebound in less than five seconds. And
she wasn't done cleaning glass. The hustling Marinovich grabbed six
Senior guard Jenni Constable closed out the first quarter with a
standout play. With just 10 seconds left and Oakdale on the attack,
Constable made a superb that-ball-belongs-to-us steal, drove upcourt
and hit a cutting Swycinsky in perfect stride. Swycinsky canned the
bunny, the buzzer went off and Sonora led 10-2.
Sonora had four first-quarter steals. But more than that, Oakdale,
when its pockets weren't being picked, still was taking 15-to-20
seconds before getting into its offense. Most often, Oakdale, once
upcourt, had little time left to get a decent shot.
Which was precisely the game plan designed by Santos.
"We had told our girls, 'Make them uncomfortable with the ball,' "
explained Santos. "We had scouted them well and knew that only one of
their girls (guard Bianca Lara) really wanted the ball. They'll even
keep passing backwards to get it to her. So we talked a lot about that
with our girls while watching film. We had said, 'Keep pushing them,
never let them get comfortable with the ball' - and our girls
delivered. They executed the game plan perfectly."
With 4:35 left in the half, and Wildcat freshman guard Bailey
Henington standing out of bounds, senior guard Sammi Knowles darted
quickly behind the arc. Standing 22-feet away, Knowles took Henington's
no-look feed, drilled a trey and Sonora led 20-3.
Sonora led 27-5 at halftime and 41-16 after three quarters.
"Our girls were emotional for 'Senior Night,' but it was a good
emotion," said Santos. "They simply wanted to come out and play well.
We had a great, large crowd and we had the band - which was fantastic."
"Winning this game meant a lot to us," said Amend, who scored four
points. "This was a big night and everybody on our team contributed."
For Sonora, junior guard Jessie Fong scored seven points, junior
guard Bianca Murillo and junior forward Cassidy Knowles each grabbed
three rebounds, junior forward Bryanna Owens had a steal and two
rebounds, and junior guard Taylor Howell had two points and two boards.
Mena grabbed seven rebounds and scored four points, Constable had
two points, two boards and two steals, junior guard Stephanie Chung had
two steals and Henington scored five points.
Swycinsky had six points, five boards and one postgame prediction.
"We're gonna go to the Final Four," she said with a grin.
After Swycinsky's Friday-night guarantee, why would anyone doubt her?