MODESTO — But for three lousy minutes, the Lady Blue Devils looked every bit like a team that could go deep in these Sac-Joaquin Section basketball playoffs.
However, trailing 28-23 with 3:16 left in the first half, host Enochs went on a 16-1 run, leading to a 64-57 first-round victory over Davis High on Tuesday.
“It was everything we thought it was going to be,” Devil coach Karen Foster said afterward. “We prepared for a tight game. They got hot on their 3-point shooting and we didn’t rotate out on their shooters.
“We came back, but we just fell a little short on our shooting.”
For a while it looked like birthday girl Caitlin Mazzoleni would single-handedly take out the 26-2 Eagles.
DHS led 20-14 after the first eight minutes, during which the now-17-year-old junior scored 10 points, collected two steals and dished out an assist.
In fact, the Blue Devils forced five first-period turnovers as their relentless pressure forced Enochs coach Curtis Reynolds into three timeouts.
The locals would lead by as many as nine before the power failure struck.
Eagle Keana Viss started the blackout. First, she swiped a Davis pass with a clear path to the basket.
Then, the 5-foot-10 senior was successful on back-to-back treys — the first one giving Enochs a lead it never give back.
Kate Dillon twice collected rebounds and scored while Alexis Flores made her only basket of the night.
The Devils, meanwhile, missed their final six shots of the half as a crowd of more 600 watched.
After intermission, the Eagles came out with a whack-a-mole defense that repeatedly punched at the ball in the lane and collapsed on DHS post Emma Stenz whenever she earned possession.
The Lady Blue Devils hit all eight of their free throws in the stanza, but Enochs did a good job limiting their chances as both teams repeatedly applied pressure.
With her team down as many as 13, Foster said her girls were having trouble seeing the floor in the face of the relentless pressure. Mazzoleni moved to point guard as year-long-starting sophomore Anna Belenis played little in the second half.
“Caitlin is 5-11 and we needed a longer, taller point guard. We needed to score,” Foster explained.”She’s going up against six-foot, 5-11, 6-1 girls and I needed that height in there (to drive, attack).
“Anna is a mere 5-4 and she just can’t get in there and do that.”
During Mazzoleni’s watch, the Blue Devils outscored Enochs, 22-16 — but it just wasn’t enough as Dillon hit an important trey in the late going and forced two timely tie-ups that had the possession arrow in the Eagles’ favor.
Davis (17-10 overall) went 7-3 in Delta Valley Conference, finishing in a second-place deadlock with Elk Grove, three games behind champ Monterey Trail.
Enochs, meanwhile, was a perfect 12-0 in the Modesto Metropolitan Conference but got only a No. 7 seed in the tournament. DHS was a 10-seed.
Mazzoleni finished with a game-high 20 points, had four steals, two blocks and dished out three assists to go with a pair of boards.
Stenz, the brilliant junior post player, had another double-double, scoring 18 and corralling 10 rebounds. She added two blocks and two steals while going a perfect eight-for-eight at the charity stripe.
Eagles Viss and Dillon both had 15 points in the win with Akaysha Simpkins solid in the middle — 12 points, seven rebounds, a block and an assist.
Enochs shot 44 percent from the floor and was 8-of-12 from beyond the arc. The Devils shot just over 33 percent (19-of-56) and were only 2-of-7 from 3-point range.
Most other statistics were hair-splitting close: Enochs had more rebounds (29-28), the two squads matched steals (10-10) and assists were advantage Davis, 14-13. Both teams suffered 13 turnovers.
“I was pleased with the season,” Foster told The Enterprise. “We had a tough schedule. All the games we lost — except Carondolet — were very tight, very close, competitive.
“Luckily for us we have almost everybody coming back. We know the feeling of being on the edge (of playoff success). Now a good majority of the team will be seniors … and they have to be hungry for it.”
Notes: Sisters Keana, Jenna and Mia Viss all play for Enochs — and there’s another Miss Viss who is an eighth-grader and headed for eligibility next season. … Belenis led the Lady Blue Devils with five assists. … Junior Katie Grahn scored 8 points, but her slick assist to Mazzoleni for a 3-pointer with 29 seconds left in the first period was a show-stopper. That trey gave DHS a 20-14 lead. … Sophie Seng sprained her ankle in Friday’s practice and missed the game. So did Sarah Bloise (illness). “There are our sixth and seventh players right there,” said Foster, adding their contributions were missed Tuesday.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-320-4456