January 11, 2018 at 9:30 pm
HEMET — Fiercely competitive, fast-paced and a little on the sloppy side, Thursday’s first Mountain Pass League showdown between Hemet and San Jacinto served as both a key point in the league race and a tantalizing preview of the rematch.
Hemet held on for a 56-51 victory, turning back a couple of hard charges by the Tigers. Afterward, both coaches weren’t afraid to talk about Round 2.
“They (San Jacinto) are going to lose,” Hemet coach Isaac Heggins. “I hope we don’t lose. Next time, it will be the same kind of game. Same intensity. Hopefully, the same result.”
Said San Jacinto coach Larry Lacy: “They’ve got to come to us now. Playing this close with our top three not really scoring, I think that gives us confidence.”
Hemet (12-4, 2-0 in league) played from the lead for most of the night but couldn’t shake the Tigers (12-6, 1-1), leaving the game to be decided on a couple of key sequences.
The Bulldogs used some good fortune to open a little breathing room, when Daylani Nichols caught a deflected pass and quickly hit a three-pointer.
When San Jacinto threatened again, it was Tiana Bolden who came up with the final answers. Down the stretch, she pulled down three key offensive rebounds, scoring on two of them. She added another basket and gained a key possession by forcing a jump ball.
“She had an emotional reaction when I got on her a little,” Heggins said. “I was telling her she needed to be a little more selfish. Then she got a little more selfish and she took over.”
Bolden led the Bulldogs with 14 points.
The Bulldogs sealed the deal when Amaya Stone scored on a long inbound pass to push the lead to six with 1:25 to go.
In a game filled with fouls and turnovers, San Jacinto struggled to manage its short bench. The Tigers’ top scorer, freshman Sydney Woodley, had to sit for much of the first half. She never found her shooting range although she led the team with 11 points and was a disruptive force on defense, with six steals.