Girls basketball: Defense clinches victory against Santa Clara


During a time out, the lady Matadors huddle while coach Sarah Borelli tells them the game plan.

Gisella Joma

The team huddles one last time before the halftime buzzer sounds to start the third quarter. MVHS trailed 16-18 at halftime but came back to win 49-45 over Santa Clara High School to improve its league record to 6-1. Photo by Dickson Tsai.

The last time the Lady Matadors played against Santa Clara High School, the game went into overtime; yet they managed to come out with a victory. Battling once again on Feb. 3, the Matadors performed a defensive strategic game, beating Santa Clara once again.

Both sophomore Stephanie Jennings, scoring 17 points, and senior Steffanie Sum, scoring 16 points; helped lead MVHS (11-10, 6-1) to victory. With ten lead changes — five in the third quarter — the girls were able to keep their composure and build momentum in the second half to end the game 49-45.

The biggest trouble in this game that differed from others, according to junior Megan Tsao, was learning to move around the extremely tall center, Santa Clara senior Jessi Boyd.

“We knew that they had one shooter, so coach always has us go out on that one shooter if we know she can shoot,” Jennings said. “It’s different because [during this game,] we had to play the shooter and the tall girl.”

The team’s full-court pressure, a skill which they failed to conti Santa Clara as early as the second half. This delay allowed fast breaks by Santa Clara early in the game, giving them a six point lead two minutes into the first quarter. However, Jennings was able to drive in past their defense to make the first two points for MVHS.

During a defensive play, Sum stole the ball from the Bruins and drew a foul, making both free throws and taking the lead for the Lady Mats 7-6. As the opponent continued to foul and throw the ball out of bounds, Jennings was able to shoot two three-pointers, ending the first quarter 10-8.

The start of the second quarter was slow for the Lady Mats as they fouled twice on the Bruins, resulting in free throws that tied the score about three minutes in. They then took back the lead with a two-point and three-point shot. Santa Clara sophomore Samantha Rudd stole the ball from Tsao after her rebound, but with three minutes left in the quarter, Jennings shot a three-pointer which decreased the opponent’s lead 13-15. Senior Hitomi Sugimoto got the rebound from an attempted shot by sophomore Tiffany Tsai and made another three-pointer. But right before the end of the second quarter, Santa Clara senior Victoria Chavez was able to pull her team ahead with a three-pointer, leading into halftime 16-18.

“I think we just get warmed up at the beginning [of the game],” junior Nassim Noallem said. “We have to think — should we have done this, should we have done that. We get to see what we did wrong.”

The second half showed a turnaround in offensive aggressiveness in the Lady Mats with more steals and attempted shots, as they spent the first six minutes of the third quarter catching up to the Bruins 25-24. The Matadors, securing rebounds from unsuccessful shots by Santa Clara, allowed for a three-pointer by Sum and a layup by Jennings. Missed opportunities to score by Santa Clara and the team’s inability to push past the Lady Mats’ defense ended the third quarter with the Matadors in the lead 30-29.

“We started off really slow; something just wasn’t clicking with us,” Sum said. “But definitely, we picked it up in the third quarter, and even though we kind of lost our lead, we still kept our composure towards the end.”

During the last quarter, the Lady Mats pulled further ahead because of Santa Clara’s many turnovers and Sum’s two three-pointers in a row and a layup. Sum and Sugimoto, who was able to dribble through the Bruins’ weaker defense, were able to steal the ball several times during defensive plays. The more successful pressure by the Matadors caught the Bruins off guard.

“In the press, we started picking up on their inbounder, which is their point guard, and not letting her get the ball back, so they kept making turnover after turnover,” Borelli said.

Layups by Tsao, Tsai and Jennings and a free throw by junior Varchita Alishetti helped clinch a lead that continuously went back and forth between the two teams during the fourth quarter. After fouls by Santa Clara in an attempt to get the ball back, Sum made a free-throw within the last minute of the quarter to seal the 49-45 win.

The shift of attitude between the first and second half, according to Sum, is generally normal among other games.

“We are a timid team; we don’t have the aggressive nature compared to other teams. So we think a lot, we get in our heads a lot,” Sum said. “We first make mistakes, we don’t know what to do, but when second half comes around, we know we … have to make it up.”

Monta Vista Score
Santa Clara Score

The team’s next game will be at Cupertino High School on Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. Their next home game will be their senior night against Saratoga at home on Feb. 10 at 6:15 p.m.

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