Monte Vista Christian senior Rhazelle Gonzales and the Mustangs girls' basketball team await to see if they earn a berth to the Central Coast Section playoffs. (Juan Reyes/The Pajaronian)

A sense of pressure was evident throughout the gymnasium when the Monte Vista Christian girl’s basketball team visited Soledad High in last week’s battle for first place in the Mission Division.

The Mustangs had to win in order just to keep their league title hopes alive, while the Aztecs were looking to close it out once and for all.

In the end, the game resulted in the latter following a 42-30 win for Soledad in Pacific Coast Athletic League action Feb. 8.   

The Aztecs players celebrated their league title-clinching victory on the court by setting off confetti poppers in front of a raucous crowd, which MVC senior guard Rhazelle Gonzales said was a blessing for the home team.

“I think we need to work on handling pressure,” she said. “I think a big lesson for our team is learning how to stay together during a time where it’s a lively environment that’s against us.” 

One of the biggest takeaways in last week’s loss to Soledad was turnovers that transitioned into points. That was on top of numerous missed shots by Gonzales and her teammates. 

“Shots weren’t falling but again but I think that can’t be an excuse,” Gonzales said. “I believe in my coach and those girls. I think those shots will fall.”

The Mustang were also missing a key component in junior guard Gia Herrera, who missed last week’s game against Soledead.

MVC coach Zach Nelson said playing on the road is always a challenge, especially when the opposing team is on the cusp of winning a league championship. 

The Aztecs were aggressive on defense playing a 2-3 zone. Nelson said once the Mustangs finally hit some shots it was a little too late. 

“We’re just fighting every day,” Nelson said. “We had [Herrera] in the last game we played them and I think she made an impact. Then not having her, we were trying to figure some things out. And obviously our shots weren’t falling.” 

Gonzales said any loss on court is tough but it’s just as much of a learning experience, as well.

MVC bounced back two days later with a 42-33 win over Greenfield in league action on Feb. 9.

The Mustangs placed third with an 8-4 record in the PCAL Mission Division standings, failing to clinch an automatic Central Coast Section playoff berth. Instead, they’ll have to wait until the section seeding meeting takes place on Wednesday at noon. 

Nelson is certain they qualified for the playoffs after checking all the boxes. The Mustangs will most likely play games away from their home court from here on out. 

“We still got a chance to play in the postseason, which was our goal from the get-go but we gotta be a better road team,” he said. 

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Monte Vista Christian competes in the Pacific Coast Athletic League Cypress Division, which is incorrect. MVC is part of the PCAL Mission Division, not the Cypress.

Aptos 46, Santa Cruz 36: Sophomore forward Abby Sherwood came up big in the fourth quarter by draining two key 3-pointers and several blocked shots to help the Mariners stun the Cardinals in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League Tournament championship on Feb. 10. 

Sherwood finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and seven blocked shots.

After losing twice to the Cardinals in league play, junior Berkeley Ashby put the Mariners ahead early with back-to-back layups to start off the game. She finished with six points, seven rebounds and a pair of steals, playing strong defense throughout the game.

It was a back-and-forth first half with Laurel Southall hitting a 3-pointer that put Aptos ahead by four points. She finished with nine points and two steals. 

Santa Cruz’s Lily Conn made a last second shot that cut Aptos’ lead at two points heading into halftime.

The Mariners came out strong in the third quarter, outscoring Santa Cruz, 15-9, on the strong play of freshman guard Gabby Wickham. She finished with 11 points, eight assists and five rebounds. 

Freshman Eliya Sanchez came off of the bench for Aptos and played 17 valuable minutes. She hit a clutch 3-pointer after Santa Cruz cut the Mariners’ lead to six points. 

Senior Guin Lines had three points, four rebounds and two steals for Aptos (18-7, 8-2), which will ride on a three-game win streak heading into the CCS playoffs.

Aptos 62, Scotts Valley 53 (OT): It took overtime for the Mariners to beat the Falcons in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League tournament semifinals on Feb. 8.

Gabby Wickham finished with a season-best 35 points to go along with nine rebounds and three assists. 

Scotts Valley kept it close in the first half but Aptos pulled away with a 14-point lead to end the third quarter.

Senior Guin Lines had some key drives and hit a clutch 3-pointer for Aptos with 1:37 remaining as Scotts Valley was making a comeback run in the fourth quarter.

Down by one point with eight seconds remaining in the game, Scotts Valley stole an inbound pass and Samantha Rebbert got fouled on a layup attempt. 

Rebbert made the first shot to tie the score but missed the second sending the game into overtime. 

Aptos took over in the extra period. Junior forward Berkeley Ashby made a pair of clutch layups, giving her four points to go with 11 rebounds and three steals. 

Wickham scored nine points in overtime, making 7-of-7 free throw attempts. 

Sophomore Abby Sherwood was strong on defense with nine rebounds and seven blocked shots.

Watsonville 49, Alvarez 31: Isabella Love tied the school record with five 3-pointers on Senior Night to help lift the Wildcatz past the Eagles in PCAL Gabilan Division action Feb. 8. 

Love finished with 17 points, while fellow teammate Fernanda Lazo added 9 points and six rebounds for Watsonville.

The ‘Catz (10-13, 5-8) will play at Pacific Grove High (6-14, 2-11) in the teams’ regular season finale Monday at 7pm.

Alisal 69, Watsonville 33: Stephanie Martinez finished with six points, six rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals for the Wildcatz in a loss to the Trojans in PCAL Gabilan action on Feb. 6. 

Leilani Yasin added six points and three rebounds for Watsonville (9-13, 4-8), which was unable to contain Alisal standout Lesley Rodriguez who exploded for 34 points. 

Boys basketball

MVC 63, Soledad 38: Jack Ryan finished with a team-best 19 points for the Mustangs in their win over the Aztecs in PCAL Mission Division action on Feb. 8. 

Fellow teammates Angel Martinez contributed 15, while Aarush Nalawadi added 9 and Bryce Brogan finished with 8 for MVC (17-6, 10-3), which will close out the regular season at Greenfield High (10-12, 8-5) on Monday at 7pm. 

Marina 89, St. Francis 66: Sam Braun scored a team-best 26 points with four 3-pointers for the Sharks in a loss to the Mariners in PCAL Mission Division play on Feb. 9. 

Fellow teammate Joseph Rose scored 21 points also with four 3-pointers, while Mario Zermeno made a pair of shots from beyond the arch for six points.

Tye Sutherland scored for the first time this season with a 3-pointer for St. Francis, which finished with a 2-22 overall record and went 1-13 in league play this season.

North Monterey County 60, St. Francis 53: Sam Braun led the Sharks with 24 points in a loss to the Condors in PCAL Mission Division action Feb. 7. Joseph Rose added eight points and Mario Zermeno scored seven points for St. Francis.  

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A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.

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