Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Capuchino's Ani Uikilifi pulls down a rebound during the Mustangs' 43-39 win over first-place Hillsdale Friday night.
Leading up to their rematch against the Hillsdale girls’ basketball team, Capuchino head coach Mike Dozier said his team hit the classroom.
When they were done watching film from the previous game, they watched it again. And again.
And it was that added attention to detail that proved to be the difference Friday night as the Mustangs avenged an earlier loss to the Knights, 43-39, knocking Hillsdale out of first place.
Key down the stretch for Capuchino was their ability to hit free throws. In the fourth quarter alone, they went 9 of 12 from the charity stripe while the Knights missed eight of their 12 shots.
“The first time we played them, we didn’t work as hard as they did,” Dozier said. “This time, we worked as hard as they did. We worked hard on the boards, we took care of the ball a little better than last time and we matched their energy.”
“Free throws. We couldn’t finish our free throws and we couldn’t finish the little bunnies we got,” said Hillsdale head coach Megan Hankins when asked what the difference was in the game. “And they executed. Good job on them. They’re really well coached and they did well today. I like playing them, but I don’t like playing them because we’re so much alike. But it’s good competition every time we play.”
Friday, the teams were similar in intensity. Hillsdale isn’t a team that will finesse you into submission and attacks you on the defensive end of the ball. Dozier said his team knew this going in and had to switch their own style of play to stay with the Knights this time around.
“You have to attack that open space,” Dozier said. “We’re perimeter shooters, but we had to switch it up tonight. The girls understand you have to do what the situation calls for.”
Capuchino really tapped into that toughness from the on-set. The difference between halves one and two — 19 points scored as opposed to 24 — was the Mustangs’ ability to hit their free throws. In the first half, they went to the line for nine freebies and hit zero. Still, after trailing 9-8 after one quarter, the Mustangs, behind a pair of key buckets by Brittany and Brianna Deckman, took a two-point advantage into the halftime locker room.
The momentum of that second quarter poured over into the third period and with 3:17 left in the frame, Capuchino was up nine.
Hillsdale answered that stretch with a 9-1 run of its own and the quarter finished with Capuchino only up one, 30-29.
“Their effort is always at 110 percent,” Dozier said of Hillsdale. “So, we capitalized on the fact they couldn’t dribble, got a few more turnovers and we just out-worked them.”
The Knights were hit bad by the turnover bug in the fourth quarter to the tune of seven giveaways. They kept things close for a moment, but midway through the frame, Brittany Deckman found a bit of range to extend the Capuchino lead to as many as seven points.
And while Hillsdale had a bit of a run left in it, Capuchino’s efficiency at the line kept the Knights just far enough away. Brittany Deckman finished with 10 points. Taylor Brazil led all scorers with 15 points.
Kara Ronberg had a monster game for Hillsdale. She finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds. The loss for the Knights in their second in the last three PAL South games. They’re now 8-2 in league play.
“We just have to realize it’s a long haul. We have to make it through the long haul,” Hankins said. “And just letting them know we have to finish strong. Every time we go to practice, we have to go to work. Losses tell me that we have to do more work. So, that’s what we’re going to do.
“I think intensity is the only thing you can ask for as a coach. This team, as far as any team I’ve ever coached, it’s the hardest working team I’ve ever been apart of. Every time I ask them to give me more, they do it. They say, ‘coach, is this enough?’ I know they have more. It’s awesome to coach them. So yes, this loss is going to hurt us, hurt our pride a little bit but I know come tomorrow morning, we’ll be here at 8:30 ready to go to work.”