Mountain View High School was rocking last on Dec. 6, as the Mountain Lions (11-4) defeated the (15-2) Tucson Badgers, 56-50.
The Badgers had entered the game with only one loss, but the Mountain Lions were not intimidated as they opened the game on a 6-2 run.
An 8-1 run by Tucson in the fourth quarter closed the gap and left the score at 46-45 in favor of Mountain View. A layup by Melody McLaughlin and two free throws by Lauren Reece made it 50-46 with 2:32 left in the game.
Katrina Kelly made a huge block on the other end, drew a foul and buried both free throws for a 52-48 lead. Tucson’s Alexis Cortez scored, but then Reece made two more free throws to put the game away for the Mountain Lions.
“We were a little stressed,” said Mountain View’s Jessica Salaz, who led the Mountain Lions with 16 points. .
Kelly’s two free throws gave Mountain View a 42-29 lead in the third. Kelly was 7-8 from the free throw line, swishing most of them, on her way to nine points.
Defense was a key for the Mountain Lions, as they forced Tucson into missing their first 11 field goal attempts in the third. The Badgers shot only 25 percent for the night.
Freshman Alexis Cortez has been a major factor for Tucson during their dominating first half of the season. She’s been averaging 15 points per game. She finished as the game’s leading scorer with 21 points.
In the first quarter, Cortez scored six points, found several teammates with quick passes leading to good shots, and also blocked three shots in the quarter. Tucson made half their shots in building a 17-15 lead.
“We have everybody getting points,” Salaz said. “We have only one loss in league.” McLaughlin had 12 points, while Reece finished with 10 for the Mountain Lions.
The defense stepped up for the Mountain Lions after the first quarter, as they made it difficult for Cortez to make her shots.
Salaz didn’t think they adjusted their strategy, but she did say they kept Cortez off the offensive boards.
Cortez scored only one point in the second. One of the factors that kept Mountain View from putting the game away was their inability to hang onto the ball, committing 24 turnovers.
“Turnovers are a concern,” admitted Mountain Lion coach Niki Melchiori.
“We need to take care of business,” Melchiori said. “By the end of January, hopefully we’ll be clicking.”
The Mountain Lions opened up a 42-29 lead in the third with a 14-1 run. Cortez led the Badgers back. She made a three pointer, buried two free throws, the defense got tough, and the deficit was down to 45-38.
Cortez finished the quarter with seven points, but Salaz also had seven in the quarter.
The Badgers surge continued into the fourth.
Cortez missed a layup, but then grabbed her own rebound and converted a three-point play. An open basket by the Badgers made it 45-43.
“They were a lot better than last year,” Salaz said. “They’re a young team.”
The Mountain Lions had a hard time putting the ball in the basket in the fourth period, but they converted their free throws and were 19-30 on the line for the night.
“We usually have a good fourth quarter,” Salaz said. “But not in the last two games.”