APTOS—The Aptos High girls’ basketball team has faced numerous challenges throughout the season. Ranging from last minute game postponements and players sitting out to due to Covid-19 protocols or injuries.
The Mariners were faced with another challenge when rival Santa Cruz High came into town, looking to stay unbeaten in the league standings. But like all the other challenges they’ve overcome, they held off a late rally by the Cardinals for a 50-41 win in Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League play Jan. 28.
Senior guard Jaylen Dang finished with a team-high 15 points for Aptos, which improved to 3-3 in league play and 12-8 overall.
Aptos lost to Santa Cruz in the abbreviated 2021 spring season finale and in the Central Coast Section Division III title game. Dang said they had Friday night’s game circled on the calendar and were more than prepared for them Friday night.
“We scouted them, watching film and we strategized to stop Bella [Stevens] and have her other teammates rise up to the challenge,” Dang said. “Which they did, but our defense has improved so much from last year and it’s just building.”
Jasmine Ackerman had a couple of big buckets in the second half and added 14 points for the Mariners.
“We just came out really hard and we really, really wanted it from the beginning,” Ackerman said. “It’s the biggest game we’ve been talking about since the beginning. So it was really fun to come out and actually follow through with it.”
Ackerman said two weeks was the first time they practiced with 10 players on the court, which allowed them to have full scrimmages. She added that they were able to cut down on the mistakes and played really well as a group.
“It was a great win for us. Knocking off Santa Cruz from being undefeated in the league, it’s pretty special,” Aptos coach Bruce Funk said.
Funk said they prepared for the Cardinals’ 1-3-1 zone defense. He added that teams have been zoning them because they hadn’t been shooting the ball well.
Funk also brought up how crucial it was to have 10 players in practice because it made all the difference in last week’s win against Santa Cruz.
“We should have five-on-five for the rest of the year and I think we saw who the real Aptos team is tonight, what we all expected during league” he said.
Santa Cruz senior Bella Stevens, the defending SCCAL MVP finished with 12 points. The Mariners’ defense held her to just two points and had a 30-9 lead going into halftime.
“We knew about the pick-and-rolls, we just wanted to keep [Stevens] off the 3-point line and keep her from getting hot,” Ackerman said.
Santa Cruz found some rhythm in the third quarter and really caught fire in the fourth, charging back to close within 49-39, with 2:28 remaining.
But that’s as close as they got to Aptos, which pulled off the upset victory and a bump in the league standings.
Isabella O’Donnell finished with 11 points for the Cardinals (7-9, 4-1), who will play the Mariners in a rematch on Wednesday at 6pm.
“It was a really fun game to play,” Ackerman said. “I felt like we all connected with one another. Moving on, I think we really bonded more from this game. Being able to get excited for each other and get pumped up.”
Aptos 60, Harbor 13: Jasmine Ackerman had 23 points, eight rebounds and five steals in the Mariners’ SCCAL win Jan. 25.
Jaylen Dang had 19 points and four steals for Aptos.
Soledad 50, St. Francis 45 (OT): Kasandra Lopez hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime, but the Sharks dropped their PCAL Cypress Division game Jan. 27.
Mariah Montalvo led St. Francis with eight points. Aaliysah Gomez, Isabella Sumano, Nevaeh Litel and Aaliyah Gomez each scored seven points for the Sharks.
St. Francis 43, at Soledad 28: Mariah Montalvo had 14 points for the Sharks in their win against the Aztecs in the teams’ make-up PCAL Cypress Division game Jan. 25.
Emily Raich scored 10 points for the Sharks and Isabella Sumano added six points.
Carmel 59, St. Francis 33: Nevaeh Litel scored eight points and Aaliysah Gomez added seven for the Sharks in a loss to the Padres in PCAL Cypress Division play Jan. 24.
Watsonville 51, North Monterey County 13: Junior guard Xitlali Montesino had 15 points for the Wildcatz in a crushing win over the Condors in PCAL Mission Division action. With the win, the ‘Catz improved to 3-2 in league play.
Watsonville (8-7, 3-2) will play at Alvarez on Tuesday at 7pm.
Cabrillo 80, Mission 65: Emma Stefanini had 17 points and seven rebounds as the Seahawks won their first Coast Conference South Division game Jan. 24.
Stefanini was 7 of 12 shooting from the field and she made 3 of 6 attempts from beyond the arc. Renee Parker had 16 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for Cabrillo (3-13, 1-3).
Lauren Ambiel and Ella Giguiere each scored 14 points, and Giana Martella added 10 points for the Seahawks, who have a rematch against Mission (9-12, 2-2) on Wednesday at 5pm.