Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Raichel Tjan goes up for a lay up in Hillsdale's win over San Mateo.
Emily Nepomuceno, a sophomore guard for the Hillsdale girls’ basketball team, was held to just four points by San Mateo Friday night.
For any other team, that might spell trouble. Nepomuceno makes the Knights’ engine run and if a team’s best player is shut down, it usually results in a loss.
Hillsdale Megan Hankins, however, was not worried in the least.
“They were trying to shut down Nepomuceno,” Hankins said. “That’s fine.”
Hankins was comforted by the fact her team is more than just a one-woman show. Shut down Nepomuceno? Senior forward Emily Lyons can step in and score. Or freshman guard Raichel Tjan. Or junior guard Ashley Yakushi. Or any other number of Knights.
All had a hand in Hillsdale’s 55-35 win over San Mateo to improve to 2-0 in Peninsula Athletic League South Division play.
“We’re not just a one-person team,” Hankins said. “It’s just great how they all responded.”
Lyons finished with a game-high 13 points, while Tjan had 11, hitting three 3-pointers. Yakushi chipped in with eight.
After Hillsdale built a 27-14 lead at halftime, San Mateo (0-2 PAL South) came out in the third quarter and pounded the ball into the post where Ofa Tuipuloto and Jen Patterson had their way with the smaller Knights. Tuipuloto and Patterson combined to score 13 of San Mateo’s 14 third-quarter points.
Tuipuloto led the Bearcats with 10 points.And the best the Bearcats could do was cut their deficit to 11 heading into the final quarter.
That’s because San Mateo could not consistently stop the Knights defensively — especially Lyons, who finished with a game-high 13 points, 11 coming in the second half.
Lyons scored just before the halftime buzzer for her only points of the first half and that seemed to take the lid off the rim for her.
“My shots weren’t falling (in the first half),” Lyons said. “I knew eventually, if I kept shooting, they’ll go in.”
Lyons converted a pair of baseline jumpers in the third quarter and then scored seven in the fourth period — capping her night by draining a 3-pointer with 48 seconds to play.
“[Lyons] came through big today,” Hankins said. “She’s my floor general.”
The Bearcats managed to cut their deficit to nine, 43-34, following a pair of Alyssa Cho free throws with 5:42 to play. Hillsdale responded with a 12-1 run to end the game.
In the first half, San Mateo jumped out to an early lead. Veronica Reinosa knocked down a jumper to open the scoring and Cho hit one of two free throws. After a Yakushi free throw got Hillsdale on the board, San Mateo easily broke the Knights’ full-court press, getting an easy layup for a 5-1 lead. When Patterson converted a layup moments, the Bearcats were up six, 7-1, just over three minutes into the game.
“We start slow,” Hankins said.
A Yakushi 3 seemed to wake up the Knights and then their press starting paying dividends as Hillsdale got back-to-back steals. The Knights missed a layup off the first one, but Adesia Cotton scored on a putback. Tjan then swiped the ball near midcourt and glided in for a fastbreak layup. A three-point play from Victoria Montague gave the Knights their first lead of the game, 11-9, and they would not trail the rest of the way. When Cotton knocked down a pair of free throws to put Hillsdale up 13-9, it capped a 9-0 run to end the first quarter.
In the second quarter, while San Mateo became tentative on offense, Hillsdale kept pushing. The Knights outscored the Bearcats 14-5 in the second period and finished the half on a 10-0 run, capped by a Lyons’ reverse layup on a putback at the buzzer to give the Knights a 27-14 lead at halftime.
“We have only one person who is 5-9, 5-10, so we have to rely on our speed,” Hankins said.