In a sense, it was poetic justice. The only Sunnyside player the Falcons were able to contain last night - Selena Rubacava - was the one who burst Hanford’s final bubble.
The 5’5” junior, a minute and 15 seconds into the final quarter, lobbed up a long range cannon ball that found the bottom of the net. The three-pointer put the Lady Grizzly basketball team up 58-40. More importantly, that howitzer by Rubalcava prompted Hanford Coach Evan Woodward to begin pulling his starters and subbing in his reserves.
Up until that point, Rubalcava hadn’t hit a single field goal attempt and was only 1-for-4 from the free throw line.
Waving the white flag, the visiting Falcons wilted down the stretch and surrendered a 70-51 decision to Sunnyside.
Tuesday evening’s non-league victory boosts the Lady Grizzlies’ overall record on the season to 14-3. Hanford is now 10-8 on the year.
Early on last night, it appeared the Falcons were going to give Sunnyside all it could handle. Behind senior Colette Gall, who tossed in 6 of her game-high 23 points in the first quarter, Hanford jockeyed back and forth with the host team.
Senior Vanessa Alvarez provided some of the early fireworks for Sunnyside. After coming up with a steal and converting the theft into a 2-point bucket, she drilled her only trey of the game. That helped the Lady Grizzlies take a 15-14 lead into the second period of play.
Sunnyside then launched its first full-fledged salvo at the Falcons, opening the second quarter with a 7-0 run. The catalyst proved to be freshman Emilee Maldonado. Coming off a long breather on the bench, the 5’2” underclassman opened the scoring with a 3-pointer from the right wing. On the ensuing inbounds play Maldonado came up with one of Sunnyside’s 11 steals on the night. She turned, whirled, then stopped and popped from five feet out, draining the bucket.
Following yet another defensive stop, Maldonado snaked a pass to junior Jordan Rodriguez, wide open under the basket. She banked in the shot to up Sunnyside’s lead to 22-14.
The Falcons cut the deficit to four before Maldonado pushed the lead back out to 26-20 by hitting a pair of free throws.
After trading several buckets to make it a 28-25 game, Sunnyside closed out the final two-and-half minutes of the first half with a 10-2 scoring spurt.
The 5’8” Rodriguez, one of four Lady Grizzlies in double figures in the scoring column last night, started the run by slipping past a couple of defenders in the paint and hitting a lay-up. Natalia Bazan, on the next trip back down the floor, put up one of her patented floaters – an 8-footer – that gave the Lady Grizzlies a 32-25 lead. Two possessions later, Sunnyside went up by nine when Maldonado stutter-stepped her way into the key, drew all three inside defenders to her and dished the ball past them to an uncovered Rodriguez near the base line, who banked it home.
The 5’6” Bazan, Sunnyside’s leading scorer Tuesday night with 14 points, finished off the flurry by racing down court after a teammate came up with a steal deep on Hanford’s side of the floor. She scooped in a long pass on the run, broke for the basket, hit the brakes under the rim and let the trailing Falcon defender go whizzing by, allowing Bazan to hit an uncontested lay-in.
Early on in the second half the Lady Grizzlies, as were the Falcons, had trouble in getting the ball to drop through the hoop.
That changed with just under five minutes remaining in the third period, when the Lady Grizzlies began looking inside to their tallest player, 5’10” Tiana Perez. The junior hit a pair of field goals and 1-of-2 free throws, pushing Sunnyside’s lead out to 45-33.
Perez finished the night with 13 points, and shared team-high rebounding honors with Rodriguez. Each of the two yanked seven loose balls off the glass.
The beginning of the end for the Falcons came with under two minutes remaining on the third-quarter clock. Maldonado scored on an offensive putback, which was quickly followed with Maldonado feeding the ball inside to Alvarez, who shoved it into the net to give Sunnyside a 51-34 lead.
From there, the Lady Grizzlies kept Hanford at bay, preserving the eventual 70-51 win.
The key in knocking off the Falcons, said SHS Coach Rick Puente, was Sunnyside’s pressure defense. He noted the Falcons got more flustered as the game progressed.
“Our girls were flying around out there,” he said in explaining how the Lady Grizzlies forced Hanford into coughing up the ball 21 times.
Overall, Puente said he was very pleased with the team effort he saw from his club. “It’s very unselfish play on the part of all the girls.
“The nice thing is, we’re peaking at the right time with the playoffs just around the corner.”
Hanford 14 13 11 13 -51
Sunnyside 15 23 13 19 -70
2-PT FG – Hanford 20/37, Sunnyside 27/56. 3-PT FG – Hanford 0/7, Sunnyside 3/10 (Rubalcava, Alvarez, Maldonado). FT – Hanford 11/14, Sunnyside 7/14. RBD – Hanford 20, Sunnyside 21 (Rodriguez 7, Perez 7).
Hanford – Ashley Stewart 3, Sydney Shintaffer 9, Maddy Bingham 3, Hannah Thompson 5, Colette Gall 23, Holly Harris 2, Shelby Winsor 6
Sunnyside – Alvarez 7, Bazan 14, Rubalcava 4, Maldonado 11, Mendoza 8, Rodriguez 13, Perez 13