The Mountain View Mountain Lions were looking for redemption as they hosted rival Marana on Jan. 10.
In their last meeting on Dec. 6, a strong second-half push from the Marana Tigers was good enough to defeat the Mountain Lions, 57-52.
“We lost our momentum in that game,” said captain Alicia Vildusea of Mountain View. “We didn’t want to do that again. We wanted to play with heart and take this game.”
In order to do that, the Mountain Lions would have to get past Marana’s Jamee Swan, who put up 42 points in the last meeting.
“We hoped to limit Jamee’s scoring this game,” said Mountain View coach Niki Melchiori. “We wanted to front her and keep her off the boards.”
Swan has continued an impressive run of scoring since being inducted into Marana’s 1,000-Point Club her junior year.
“A thousand points in high school is a big deal, and not a lot of kids accomplish that,” said Marana coach Diane Swan, who is also her mom.
Both teams were pumped up as they took the court.
“We knew they were going to want to come back,” said coach Swan. “We just hoped to keep up our intensity level that got us the win the first go-around.”
As she expected, the Mountain Lions came out aggressively. Using their fast break to split the Tigers’ defense, the Mountain Lions were able to score underneath the basket, despite being the smaller team. A steal and fast break lay-up gave Kelsie Bingham the basket and the foul, giving Mountain View a 17-9 first quarter lead.
“I told the team to pick it up if they wanted to stay in the game. The first quarter was not okay,” said coach Swan.
The Tigers took the words to heart, limiting Mountain View to just six points in the second quarter, while scoring 21.
Swan came up with a couple early blocks and worked well with Freshman Kortnee Day to find some unattested baskets, giving the Tigers a 30-23 advantage at halftime.
Going into the locker room, Mountain View had to rethink their strategy.
“We talked about playing smart and increasing our defensive intensity,” said Melchiori. “We needed to find our shots and get our confidence back.”
The second half was a big one for Vildusea, who scored the majority of her 17 points in the third and fourth quarters. The Mountain Lions’ defense clogged the lane to limit Swan’s access to the ball, while at the same time finding their offensive momentum.
“We did a great job of boxing out, and our patience on offense was huge for us,” said Melchiori. “Instead of one pass and then a shot, we wanted to make their defense work more.”
Bingham collected two steals and converted on the offensive end early in the third to help the Mountain Lions find their confidence again.
Mountain View’s Melody McLaughlin closed the third quarter with a three-pointer, cutting the Marana lead to 44-43.
“Niki is a very good coach,” said coach Swan. “She wasn’t going to let her kids not be intense. We knew we needed to match that intensity.”
Vildusea had different plans though, coming up with a steal and four quick points to give Mountain View the lead at 49-46.
Swan answered down the stretch, hitting a three-pointer with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
Still trailing, and limited on time, Marana was forced to contest every shot, which led to foul trouble, sending Mountain View to the free-throw line often. The Mountain Lions converted well on the opportunities, and outscored the Tigers 20-12 in the fourth quarter. With twenty seconds left, Mountain View ran the time down, finalizing a 63-56 victory.
“We were able to stay focused and come out strong the second half after struggling in the second quarter,” said Melchiori.
McLaughlin led the Mountain Lions with 18 points, and Vildusea added 17.
“We made a few mental errors down the stretch. We’ll look to correct our errors in our upcoming games,” said coach Swan.
Despite Mountain View’s defensive efforts, Swan led Marana with 31 points and 16 rebounds, while going a perfect eight for eight at the free-throw line.
(Editor’s note: To see more photos from the game, log on to www.explorernews.com.)