By BOB OTTO
FOR THE VALLEY CHRONICLE
On the inside in the paint, Bulldogs5’11” center Cora Lopez scored15 points, while pulling down9 rebounds. She was especially dominant in the first half, scoring 10points – most from close range – as the Mustangs couldn’t stop her.
“Cora’s really solid,” Ranney said.“She’s an incredibly hard worker. She gets the rebound and gets down the court like a very quick guard. Not too many post players can do that.”
Kassie Ray with six rebounds and Brier Thomas with eight, also were key contributors in helping the Bulldogs control the boards.
Although Lopez, Ray, and Thomas did dominate the post area, Ranney said a key Mustangs post player Lauren Fischer was out with a knee injury, which made a big difference in West Valley’s game plan.
“Without her they were forced to shoot from the outside,” Ranney said. “And we only allowed them one shot; our rebounding made the difference.”
The win gives the Bulldogs a three-game win streak, improves their league record to 4-2, 13-8overall, and keeps the Bulldogs in contention for a league title and a CIF-Southern Section playoff berth with four games left. Meanwhile, West Valley is 2-3, 10-9.
The game stayed close in the first quarter with Hemet holding a 9-8lead at the close. But with Lopez’s eight points in the second quarter, the Bulldogs took a 22-13 lead into intermission. And they didn’t letup in the second half. Sparked by Monica Vasquez’s six points and two, three-pointers from Enid Fieldand Patricia Garcia (four treys, 12points), the Bulldogs closed out the third quarter with a commanding40-21 advantage.
Hemet also did a fine defensive job on the Mustangs high-scoring Sarai Ware. The senior guard came into the game leading the Mountain Pass in scoring with a 19 points per game average.
“The last time we played them, she scored 31,” Ranney said regarding Hemet’s 56-53 win on Jan. 10 at West Valley. “This time she got 13, so we are happy about that.”
Ware led West Valley in scoring, but she was the only Mustang to reach double figures.
Both teams finished up league play with two games this week (no score available at press time), and two the final week. Those final games could be huge in deciding the league standings and determining which teams qualify for play-offs. West Valley played at Citrus Hillon Tuesday and at Beaumont on Thursday. Hemet, meanwhile, traveled to San Jacinto on Tuesday and hosted Tahquitz on Thursday.
At this stage of the season, Ranney in her first year as varsity head coach, likes the improvement she’s seen from her team, which now has more wins this season in league play(4-2) than the previous three seasons combined (3-27).
“We are doing a better job of swinging the ball, and our defense is working well