After a slow and sloppy start, the Davis High girls basketball team put the pressure on Natomas — literally — to claw out a 53-46 victory in its season-opener at The Cage on Wednesday.
The teams exchanged turnovers and missed shots in the first quarter as the Blue Devils struggled to find a rhythm in front of the crowd of approximately 100 fans. The crowd included 12 members of DHS’ first Sac-Joaquin Section championship squads from the 1975-77 seasons who were honored before the game
“I felt like we came out a little nervous,” said first-year DHS head coach Karen Foster. “It was really important to get that first win, especially in front of our alumni.”
When the Devils (1-0) applied a full-court press at the beginning of the second quarter, the Nighthawks (0-2) were initially unfazed and continued to pull away behind easy layups as they got the ball in behind the press.
Trailing 16-9 with 3:25 in the second quarter, DHS’ press started to put the squeeze on Natomas. A series of quick turnovers sparked a 12-0 Blue Devil run and the locals took a 21-16 lead into intermission.
“We started playing as a unit,” said Davis junior Tori Powell, who scored five key points in the fourth quarter. “Once we get our defense going, our offense can just take off.”
Leading that Devil offense was freshman Emma Stenz, as the Harper Junior High ninth-grader posted a double-double, including 10 of her 18 points in the fourth quarter. Stenz had six field goals, went 4-of-8 from the free-throw line and grabbed 15 rebounds.
In addition, Ashleigh Vandenbrink finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and four steals for DHS, while Danielle Gantar had seven rebounds and five steals.
“We definitely worked more as a team in the second half instead of as individuals,” Vandenbrink said. “It was nice to start off with a win and build our confidence.”
In the second half, Davis built an 11-point lead thanks mainly to the press. However, high-pressure defense also netted several fouls for the Blue Devils and sent the Nighthawks to the foul line often.
In a span of less than two minutes early in the fourth period, Natomas erased the entire deficit with 5-0f-6 shooting from the line, two easy putbacks and a base-line 3-pointer by Haley Polk that made it 36-35 Nighthawks with 5:17 remaining.
But the Blue Devils didn’t panic and stayed with their press, regaining the lead with 3:44 left in the final quarter as Stenz sank two free throws to make it 41-40. The locals never trailed again.
“I felt the girls had adversity and they held it together,” Foster said. “We’re so young, and sometimes you can lose your vision and things go haywire. They outrebounded us, but they were winded in the end and we just ran them into the ground.”
— Reach Kim Orendor at firstname.lastname@example.org