The effort and execution Sierra High’s girls basketball team displayed over the final two quarters were missing early, and visiting Sonora took advantage in a 55-43 win Wednesday in both clubs’ Valley Oak League opener.
Sonora capitalized on Sierra’s lackadaisical defensive effort, jumping out to a 21-11 lead early in the second quarter. Sonora would go into halftime up by 11 but saw the Sierra intensity change immediately as the Timberwolves began cutting into their double-digit deficit.
“There was a period early in the first quarter when we did nothing and allowed them to put up a quick seven points,” Sierra head coach Steve Unterholzner said. “Had we done what we were supposed to do in that first quarter, we’re talking about a different game.”
Sonora made Sierra’s early blunders sting, answering each of its challenges to even things on the scoreboard. The Timberwolves’ best run pulled them to within five points midway through the fourth, but a Sonora 3-pointer followed by a steal and layup had the Timberwolves looking up at another 10-point hurdle.
“We were really trying to penetrate their zone, but they played a good 2-3 zone really up in your face, so we had a tough time getting in,” Sonora head coach Amy Santos said. “But once we did and got in there and drew some fouls things got good.
“Our guards finally started taking advantage of that, and we made our free throws when we needed to.”
Sonora relied on the perimeter game early and went back to it after successfully getting points in the middle. The Wildcats’ guard trio of Elise Amend, Maddie Pallante and freshman Bailey Henington was a handful for the Timberwolves.
All three had strong shooting nights, finishing with 17, 12 and 10 respectively. The production of the trio doubled that of Sierra’s lone starter in double figures, Lia Unterholzner’s 19 points.
“To me, it’s just a matter of not making layups and free throws,” coach Unterholzner said. “They played hard and I am pleased with that. I think the difference in the two halves, was our girls believing they could play at this level.
“I asked our guards for a tough task in chasing their shooters around, and I feel they did a good job.”
Shelby Shirron added five for the Timberwolves and sophomore Celine Barber added eight.
The Timberwolves (01 VOL, 2-11 overall) will be back on the court Friday when they pay a visit to the East Union Lancers.
Sonora 49, Sierra 12
The Timberwolves were unable to get anything going Wednesday in their VOL opening loss to the Wildcats.
Laryssa Coushman had four points, five rebounds and five steals, while teammate Angelina Saldivar chipped in with four.
Sonora 34, Sierra 27
Sonora was able to fend off a late Sierra rally, holding on for the VOL win Wednesday.
Keanna Barber had five points, five steals and five boards in the loss. Marissa La Quaglia added 11 points and four rebounds.