On Friday, Calaveras will host Sonora in a battle for first in the Mother Lode League, should the Wildcats get past Argonaut on Thursday. But before any battle for the top spot in the MLL could happen, Calaveras had to first get past the Summerville Bears.
Perhaps Calaveras was looking too far down the road as it was nearly upset by the up-and-coming Bears. But Calaveras relied on its seniors to hold off the Bears for a 44-35 win Tuesday night in Tuolumne.
With Sonora looming in the distance, it would be easy for Calaveras to fall into a trap game and head coach Jeremy Malamed hopes that doesn’t happen too often.
“They are high school kids, so as much as you preach one game at a time and not to overlook anybody, it’s possible they might have overlooked them, especially when we jumped out early on them,” Malamed said. “We might have then relaxed or thought it would be easy. But I know from watching this team that Greg (Smith) does a good job with them and this game would not be easy.”
Calaveras jumped out to a 5-0 lead with baskets from junior Kate Lumley and senior Emily Jasper while senior Brookelyn Larkin added a free throw. Summerville got its first points of the night with 4:15 remaining in the first quarter from a layup by junior Emili Rico.
Calaveras added to its lead with a jumper from Larkin and a 3-pointer by senior Tori Wood. The Bears responded with back-to-back baskets from Laiken Skinner and Delaney Rodgers. But Calaveras ended the first quarter with an and-1 basket from Larkin, who sunk her free throw to give Calaveras a 13-6 first quarter lead.
Summerville cut the Calaveras lead to three with free throws from Grace Fulkerson and Rico, followed by a basket from Fulkerson in the paint with an assist by junior Karina Herrera.
Later in the quarter, Calaveras led 15-12 following a basket by Fulkerson. Calaveras went on a 6-0 run with baskets from Larkin and baseline jumpers from Lumley and senior Alicia De Herrera to push the score to 21-12 with 3:15 remaining in the first half.
The Bears ended the half with two points from Claire Cladera and Fulkerson, yet Calaveras led 23-16. Summerville showed that it had the ability to fight back from an early lead, something that didn’t happen Friday night against Sonora.
“Against Sonora, we had a lot of weird bounces,” said Summerville head coach Greg Smith. “Shots that we normally would make didn’t fall. That caused our confidence to go away. Tonight, there was a little more resilience and mental toughness and we stayed with it.”
In the Calaveras locker room, Malamed wasn’t upset with the first half, he just wanted to see his players have more success in the paint.
“We stressed at halftime that we are getting looks at the basket, but for whatever reason, we just weren’t’ finishing,” Malamed said. “We were getting great looks, they just weren’t falling.”
The Bears came out with a bang to start the third quarter, as Fulkerson drained a corner 3 to cut the lead to 23-19. But with every Summerville basket, Calaveras responded with one of its own. With 2:20 remaining in the third quarter, De Herrera sunk a free throw to give Calaveras a 31-24 lead.
Trailing by seven, Summerville went on its best run of the night. Herrera scored after hauling in a rebound. Freshman Serafina Peterson added three points and Rico made a layup in traffic to push the Bears’ run to 7-0, which tied the game at 31-31.
Summerville was getting contribution from many different players, which made them difficult to slow down.
“We were more balanced with our scoring, which helped,” Smith said. “We were able to run more of our playbook and open it up a little bit.”
The game didn’t stay tied for long, as sophomore Olivia Long hit a jumper with 33 seconds remaining in the third quarter to give Calaveras a 33-31 lead.
While holding on to the two-point lead, Calaveras got back-to-back 3s from Wood and Lumley for some much needed breathing room.
“You never can relax with anything under 10, things can change quickly,” Malamed said. “Leads can go fast to get a little bit of a run to get that cushion in the fourth quarter. But I knew that we had to play hard to the wire.”
Summerville cut the lead to 40-35 with baskets from Peterson and Fulkerson. Even with a five point lead and two minutes to play, Malamed knew his team couldn’t let up.
“We pretty much had to keep fighting until the final buzzer,” Malamed said.
Where Calaveras was able to put the game away late was on the rebounds. With each missed shot, the ball, more often than not, was hauled in by a red jersey.
“Our rebounding at the end was just bad,” Smith said. “They out rebounded us the last five minutes of the game and I think that was the difference.”
Calaveras put the game away from the free throw line, with baskets from Larkin and Jasper.
Summerville knew heading into the game that it needed to stop Larkin from taking control of the game. The Bears were unsuccessful in that, as she scored a game-high 16 points, had five rebounds, dished six assists and had three steals.
“We talked a lot about stopping Larkin and she scored 16,” Smith said. “That was disappointing. We didn’t slow her down and we lost her. She got too many offensive boards where we just lost her. That part is the part that is hard to swallow.”
Lumley scored 13 and pulled down nine rebounds. Wood scored eight, Jasper added four and Long scored two and had seven rebounds.
Fulkerson led Summerville with 11 points, followed by Herrera with eight, Peterson and Rico with five, and Caldera, Rodgers and Skinner with two points.
With back-to-back games against Calaveras and Sonora, Smith can see a difference between his team and those, but he believes that the gap will soon be closed.
“I think they have a little more experience and seniors, where there are a few times that we made some questionable choices that they didn’t,” Smith said. “Both of those teams are senior laden teams that don’t make as many mistakes. I think for us, we are right there. Talent wise and skill wise, we are fine. We just need to work some things out on the court.”
Summerville (9-4, 1-2 MLL) will play at 7 p.m. Thursday against Bret Harte in Angels Camp.
As for Calaveras (12-2, 2-0 MLL), there is still one more game it must play before the matchup Friday against Sonora. Calaveras plays Thursday on the road against Amador in Sutter Creek. Malamed hopes his team learns from Tuesday night’s game and dosen’t look past Amador.
“This is a great game to call on as an example,” Malamed said. “If we don’t’ come out focused on that game, we could fall into that trap like we did tonight. Hopefully it’ll catch their attention and we can come out and play well on Thursday. Friday is a big game and there is no escaping it. But we have to take it one game at a time and win Thursday to make Friday have the meaning that we want it to.”