Volcano Vista’s girls basketball team turned to its dynamite guards for a season-opening win on Monday night.
The Hawks were most decidedly slow starters on this visit to La Cueva, and in fact Volcano Vista didn’t lead once the entire opening half.
But that changed in a hurry after halftime. Natalia Chavez and Jaelyn Bates combined to score 15 points in a pivotal third quarter, and the Hawks went on to a 59-49 victory.
“We were pleased,” said Chavez, a 5-foot-10 sophomore guard who scored 23 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. “From losing in the Pit last (season, to Carlsbad in the quarterfinals), having a chip on our shoulder, made us come back stronger because we know we want to get back there.”
The Bears exploited the Hawks from the arc in the early going, knocking down four 3-pointers in the opening 6½ minutes, including two from Carolina Romero. But a driving layup by Bates, and then a layup by Chavez, cut what was a 9-2 deficit to 15-12 by the end of the quarter.
Chavez scored all seven Volcano Vista points in the second quarter as the Hawks pulled even at 19-all by halftime as La Cueva cooled off from the perimeter.
Chavez’s three-point play 90 seconds into the third quarter put Volcano Vista ahead 22-20, and the Hawks raced away from La Cueva from there. The lead swelled to 26-20, then 33-24 after the second of two straight buckets by Bates, and then 41-25 by the end of the quarter.
“What we did differently (from the first half to the second half), was we talked more on defense and helped on the back side, knowing where the shooters were,” said Chavez. “Once we took that away, we kept pushing and we kept going.”
Bates added 19 points for Volcano Vista, although twice in the second half she fell to the floor with severe leg cramps.
Teona Savic led the Bears with 11 points. While La Cueva scored 15 points in the opening 6½ minutes, it took the Bears 2½ quarters to score their next 15.
“The girls buckled down and stopped jumping around too much and losing their focus on who they were defending,” Hawks coach Lisa Villareal said. “They made that adjustment and it turned around in our favor.”
VOLCANO VISTA 63, LA CUEVA 50: The Hawks not only never trailed, but they led comfortably by double digits for almost all of the final three quarters.
However, this game was missing its biggest attraction.
La Cueva senior guard Derek Aeilts – arguably Class 5A’s best shooter – twisted his ankle in a preseason scrimmage and did not suit out. And he probably won’t play when Highland visits on Thursday.
He was surely missed.
The Hawks scored the game’s first seven points – Dion Battle’s 3-pointer started things – and never looked back. Volcano Vista also had the final six of the first quarter as well to lead 18-9.
Ian Chavez and Battle nailed 3s in the middle of the second quarter, stretching the lead to 28-13.
Battle scored 14 of his game-best 18 points in the first half, including three 3s.
“Right now we are playing in spurts,” Hawks coach Greg Brown said. “We do need to do some things more consistently.”
Tristan Moore led La Cueva with 17 points. Jalen Seward did solid work inside for the Bears and added 16 points.
La Cueva shot 17 free throws for the game; the Hawks shot that many in the first half alone and 31 total in a game that largely lacked any rhythm or flow.