Guy Dossi
The Union Democrat

For the first time in years, a Summerville vs. Sonora girls’ basketball game had the chance of not being lopsided in favor of the green and gold. Summerville entered Friday night’s game with nine wins and Sonora had 11.

With the preseason success of both teams and the Mother Lode League season in its first week, Friday night could be used as a statement game for both teams.

A statement was made, by Sonora.

The Wildcats showed why they have been MLL champs the last two years and want to make it three in a row with a 52-30 win over the Bears in Tuolumne.

Even with years of success against Summerville, Sonora head coach Amy Emerald knew this is a different Bear squad and nothing is guaranteed.

“I didn’t want our girls to overlook them,” Emerald said. “They have a good record. I don’t know how tough their preseason was, but they’ve got a good record. And I know a lot of those girls and they are going to be gunning for us because it’s Sonora, just like we are gunning for them because it’s Summerville. Every game against your rival is different, so you can’t take anything for granted.”

When the Wildcats took the floor, they did so without a key piece. Senior guard Riley Henington was on the bench in street clothes, still recovering from a single-car accident from earlier in the week. Not having Henington on the floor was going to be an added challenge for the ’Cats.

“She’s a two-year varsity starter and is a leader of the team and we were playing without her, that’s a big hole to fill,” Emerald said. “I think our players stepped up huge in filling that role.”

Less than three minutes into the game, Sonora was without another star. Senior Makenna Poole picked up two early fouls and found herself sitting on the bench next to Henington. But with Poole out of action for much of the first half, Sonora did not panic.

“I knew that we have a strong enough bench to where they can come out and help us whenever they need to,” said junior Caitlin Baker.

The Bears struck first with a steal and basket from freshman Serafina Peterson. With 5:30 remaining in the first quarter the game was tied 3-3. Summerville junior Grace Fulkerson drained a corner 3 to give the Bears the lead and excite the hometown crowd.

“We just wanted to come out strong and fast and show them that we are the real deal and that we were improved,” Fulkerson said.

Following the Fulkerson 3, Sonora exploded on a 11-0 run to end the quarter. Sophomore Sha’nece Garrett scored six and Baker scored five during the run.

“At first I came out slow because it’s a rivalry game and there is a lot of pressure and I wanted to obviously win,” said Garrett. “We all came out slow. But after getting all the jitters out, I felt like we did our thing.”

Summerville cut Sonora’s lead to 15-10 following four points from Fulkerson. But with 3:12 remaining in the first half, the Wildcats went on a 10 run with eight points coming from Garrett and Sonora led 25-10 at halftime.

“Sha’nece played a great game and in that second quarter, she hurt us,” said Summerville head coach Greg Smith. “She did exactly what Amy wanted her to do. She was aggressive and did a much better job handling the ball than she did last year. Our pressure didn’t get to her, so credit to her.”

Sonora’s lead grew to 34-10 midway through the third quarter. The Bears scored only five points in the quarter, three from Fulkerson and two from junior Claire Caldera.

Fulkerson hit a three to begin the fourth quarter and with Summerville trailing 38-18, momentum finally started to go the Bears way. Junior Karina Herrera scored in the paint and Fulkerson added the next five points for Summerville’s 7-0 run.

“Before the game Grace and I talked and I said, ‘Gracy, I need you to be the one who’s calm,” Smith said. “You’re a leader and everybody loves you and they are going to respond to you.’ And that is true. When we came out, she made a couple of great plays right away and that confidence infected us and everybody felt good.”

The run cut the Wildcat lead to 38-27, but the Bears would get no closer. Sonora put the game away with strong shooting from the free throw line and its defense allowed only one basket in the final four minutes.

Summerville had chances throughout the game, but shots that have been falling all year did nothing more than hit rim rather than net.

“It was extremely frustrating because we did everything right and everything normal,” Fulkerson said. “Some nights they fall and some nights they don’t. This was a big letdown that it happened against Sonora.”

Garrett led Sonora with a game-high 27 points and had 12 rebounds. Baker scored 10, had eight boards and five steals. Haylie Santos scored seven, grabbed five rebounds, dished three assists and had three steals. Carley Copello scored four while Maddi Fong and Emma Fray added two points apiece. Poole had five rebounds, five steals and three assists.

Fulkerson was Summerville’s top scorer with 22, followed by Peterson, Caldera, Delaney Rodgers and Herrera each with two points.

Summerville (9-3, 1-1 MLL) plays Tuesday at home against Calaveras, Thursday in Angels Camp against Bret Harte and back at home Friday against Argonaut.

Sonora (12-2, 2-0 MLL) hosts Bret Harte on Tuesday and that has tough back-to-back road games against Argonaut on Thursday and Calaveras on Friday.