By Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Capuchino’s Brianna Deckman shoots over Aragon’s Briana Reynolds during the Mustangs’
59-42 win. The victory improved Capuchino’s record to 3-0 in PAL South Division play.
If there was one word to describe the first-half play of the Capuchino girls’ basketball team against Aragon Wednesday evening, it would be “sloppy.”
The Mustangs were sloppy with their passing, defense and just about everything else that had led them to a 12-2 record overall and 2-0 in Peninsula Athletic League South Division play.
“We had a slow start,” said Capuchino coach Mike Dozier. “We went in at halftime and (I) told the girls it’s not so much them (Aragon), it’s us.”
The talk must have worked because Capuchino came out in the second half and looked like a different team. Everything was much more crisp as the Mustangs swarmed the ball defensively. The Mustangs turned up the defensive intensity and that got their fast break going. After the two teams were tied at 26 after two quarters of play, the Mustangs outscored the Dons 36-16 over the final two quarters to record a 59-42 victory.
The win moves the Mustangs to 3-0 in PAL South play and 13-2 overall.
“Second half, defensively we were much better,” Dozier said. “Defense is where we’ll hang our hat this year.”
That defense jump-starts the Capuchino offense. When the Mustangs can get out on the break, they were hard to stop. Setting up in the half-court offense, however, was a different story.
“We’re to small to go half court,” Dozier said. “We don’t want to trade punches.”
Yet that is precisely what happened in the first half as Aragon (0-3 PAL South) used its height in the frontcourt to control the boards and a tenacious defense of its own to force the Mustangs into a number of turnovers and Dons’ steals.
The game could not have been any closer in the first half as both teams raced up and down the court. Brianna Deckman, who finished with 14 points for Capuchino, scored the first basket of the game, but Aragon tied it on a pair of Maya Collins free throws. Kelsey Alonzo drained a 3-pointer to put the Mustangs up 5-2, but a 3 from Collins tied it. That trey ignited a 7-0 Aragon run, turning a 5-2 deficit into a 9-5 lead.
It was short-lived, however, as the Mustangs ended the first quarter on a 7-3 run to tie the score at 12. Taylor Brazil, who finished with a game-high 16 points for Cap, converted a three-point play at the quarter buzzer for the tie.
It was more of the same in the second quarter. Aragon eventually built a five point lead, 22-17, following another 3 from Collins with 4:04 left in the half, but the Mustangs closed with a 9-4 run to tie the score at 26 going into halftime.
The second half was all about the Mustangs’ tenacity — as well as its bench. Brittany Deckman, who finished with 10 points, had to sit most of the third quarter with three fouls, but her replacement, Xenia Collins, came off the bench to more than filled the void.
Collins wasn’t expected to light up the scoreboard. Instead, she gave the Mustangs what they lacked in the first half — consistent rebounding. Collins pulled down six rebounds in the second half.
“[Collins] did a fantastic job off the bench,” Dozier said.
The same could be said of the play of Ani Uikilifi and Nani Merafuentes. Uikilifi pulled down seven rebounds for the game and scored six second-half points, while Merafuentes replaced sister Alonzo and took over ball-handling chores after Alonzo missed most of the second half with a bloody nose following a collision.
The second half saw the Mustangs take control of the game. They more than held their own on the boards and while they still had trouble taking care of the ball at times, they also made life tough for Aragon, coming up with 13 steals — nine in the fourth quarter alone.
Capuchino opened the second half with back-to-back 3s by Brazil from the left corner for a 32-26 lead and the Mustangs never trailed again.
Aragon cut its deficit to three, 34-31, following a pair of Briana Reynolds free throws, but the Mustangs went into the final eight minutes with a 40-33 advantage.
And then the Mustangs stepped on the gas and raced past the Dons. Capuchino outscored Aragon 19-9, despite seeing the Dons cut their deficit to three points, 40-37, following back-to-back, coast-to-coast layups from Alyssa Mangaoang.
The Mustangs quickly righted the ship, however, getting three straight buckets to push their lead to nine, 46-37.
All told, Capuchino went on a 11-0 run, with Brazil scoring five straight points to cap it, putting the Mustangs in firm control, 51-37 with 4:04 left.
The only question left was by how much would the Mustangs win.
“[We] played hard. Cap is a very good team,” said Aragon coach Annette Gennaro-Trimble. “We were right there. My girls work very hard. Unfortunately, the record doesn’t show it.”
Mangaoang led the Dons with nine points. Collins finished with eight, and Reynolds and Jen Horita had six points each.