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Bears stifled by Hamilton
Stifling defense led the Hamilton High girls basketball team to a 42-22 victory on Tuesday against host Pierce in the Braves' Sacramento Valley League opener.
The Braves (4-4, 1-0 SVL) held the Bears to six points until 22 seconds remained in the third quarter and fended off a late rally to secure the win.
Pierce (4-4, 1-2 SVL) went on a 12-1 run early in the fourth quarter, closing the gap to 33-20 before Hamilton regrouped.
"We did good on defense, we played really well, but we need to keep the focus up and finish. We just lost sight of that in the fourth," Hamilton coach Mark Priano said.
Audra Jones dominated early, using her 6-foot-5 frame to frustrate the Bears' smaller, slashing guards. Jones is nearing full strength after dealing with an ankle injury last week and is regaining her agility, Priano said.
Jones scored a game-high 14 points and, after a few early blocks, drove the Bears' offense to the perimeter where they struggled to score.
Pierce coach Alex Nunez tried adjusting but the offense wasn't able to get in sync, and when it did, the shots wouldn't fall.
"We were trying to get in and play inside-out, but it wasn't going well for us. The girls aren't used to that so they were having a real difficult time," Nunez said.
The Bears' full-court press finally got going with 22 seconds left in the third quarter when senior guard Macey Cox stole the ball and scored on a fast break. She rattled off 10 points in less than four minutes to turn a blowout into a much closer game that forced Hamilton to keep its starters in.
Priano gave his players credit for handling the pressure for three quarters. Guard Taylor Thomson committed few turnovers despite being harassed for much of the game by Pierce guards Cox and Nikki Hererra.
"They want the game to be out of control, that's the way they play, and you don't want to get yourself into that game," Priano said.
Thomson finished the game with 10 points and Sophia Oseguera, who scored the first five points of the game, added 12 points for the Braves.
For Pierce, the inside-out game might have worked, but they failed to make a single 3-pointer or free throw all game.
"There were a lot of opportunities we had where the girls just missed the shots. A lot of bad passes, they were forcing a lot of things, they weren't letting the game come to them," Nunez said.
Hererra finished with six points and Ellen Hansen added four points for Pierce.
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or email@example.com.