ATWATER — J.R. Davis didn’t like Mayra Mora’s body language at school on Tuesday.
The Atwater senior wasn’t feeling well physically and was mired in a mini slump on the court.
“You could just tell looking at her at school today that she wasn’t feeling it,” Davis said. “She said she wasn’t sure she was going to play. I told her we needed her and that she needed to fight through it.”
Good call, coach.
On a night where her teammates heard more clanks off of iron than a blacksmith, Mora carried the offensive burden with 17 points. Fourteen of those came in the second half, including what proved to be the game-winning runner, as the Falcons held off Golden Valley for a 39-35 victory at The Nest.
“It was nice to see her step up,” Davis said. “She’s been quiet for the last couple weeks. An ankle has been nagging at her, so it was nice to see her aggressive again and attacking the basket when we needed it.”
And Atwater (10-9, 2-0 Central California Conference) needed it more than Davis would have expected after the Falcons pushed their lead to 30-20 at the end of three quarters.
Mora and Jacky Alvarado did the damage, combining for 11 points in the third. The Cougars (10-9, 1-1 CCC) couldn’t get shots off to answer. Golden Valley turned the ball over 16 times in the third quarter and only attempted seven shots.
Despite hitting just two total shots from the field in the second and third quarters, Matt Thissen’s squad came storming right back at the start of the fourth quarter.
Naomi Peterson sparked an 8-0 run with four quick points, pulling GV within 30-28 with 6:08 to play.
Mora answered for the Falcons. The senior guard ended a five-minute Atwater drought with a 3, making it 33-28 with 2:46 to play.
The Cougars came right back. Marissa Servantes (team-high 13 points and 10 rebounds) recorded back-to-back layups to trim the lead to 35-32 with just over a minute to play.
Mora’s runner with 40 seconds left appeared to be the dagger, but GV’s Camille Flores kept hope alive with her second 3 of the game. The shot pulled the Cougars back within two with 32 seconds left.
Maritza Hernandez had a chance to ice the game for Atwater at the free-throw line, but missed the front end of a one-and-one. Golden Valley rebounded the miss, but threw the outlet pass away. A wild scramble ensued before the ball fell back to Hernandez (eight points), who put the game away with a short jumper.
“We failed to come out and match their physicality and aggressiveness,” Thissen said. “It took us two-and-a-half quarters to realize we could play that way too. The bottom line is we didn’t feel like we played very well and we still had a chance to win at the end.
“It’s a shame, because this group has worked so hard and brought our program back to relevance. But we need to change our way of thinking. We need to go into these game believing we’re the team to beat.”
In other CCC play, Allison Wisdom’s 18 points paced Buhach Colony in a 58-12 win over Turlock. The Thunder broke the game open by outscoring the Bulldogs 44-3 in the middle quarters. The Merced girls improved to 1-1 in league with a 48-24 win over Pitman.
In boys Central Section action, Noah Croninger poured in 20 points for Dos Palos in a 73-40 loss to Firebaugh.