It was a double blow for Atwater High girls basketball coach JR Davis and his Falcons on Tuesday night.
Not only did Atwater lose 46-40 to Pitman in the Central California Conference opener, but the Falcons also lost point guard Lexi Valencia to an injury late in the first half.
Valencia fell awkwardly to the floor and dislocated her left elbow with 2 minutes and 31 seconds left in the second quarter. The game was delayed 35 minutes as Valencia was attended to by medical personnel.
“It was a dislocation,” said Davis after the game. “Everybody is headed to the hospital to see how she is doing. The first thing she said was, ‘Will I be able to play on Thursday?’”
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On Wednesday morning Davis said there was no broken bones, but Valencia will have to meet with an orthopedic doctor to make sure there is no ligament damage. There was no time table for her return at this time.
Both teams waited at their bench during the long delay. The Atwater players did their best to distract themselves by making each other laugh.
“They were trying to be goofy and laugh because nobody wanted to cry,” Davis said.
The Falcons (7-7, 0-1 CCC) battled through foul trouble in the first two quarters to take a 21-16 lead at the half. Freshman Amoni Clairborne led Atwater with seven of her team-high 15 points in the first half.
The Falcons built their lead after erasing a 7-0 run to start the game by Pitman (10-6, 1-0). Atwater did it by attacking the boards and getting second shots.
The Falcons outscored Pitman 11-4 in the second quarter despite Atwater having three starters in foul trouble with two fouls.
“With our height that shouldn’t happen,” said Pitman coach Dustin Curtiss. “Atwater always does a good job with their smaller players of attacking the boards. We weren’t as aggressive.”
The Pride hit the Falcons with two key runs in the second half.
Pitman opened the third quarter with a 10-0 run to take a 26-21 lead. Kaylin Randhawa and Jessica Smith combined for seen of those points.
Smith led the Pride with 15 points. Randhawa sat the entire second quarter with two fouls. After picking up two more fouls in the third quarter, the University of the Pacific-bound senior only played a couple minutes in the fourth quarter before fouling out with nine points.
Smith picked up the slack, scoring five points during a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter that opened up a 39-30 lead for Pitman with 5:19 remaining.
“It’s frustrating,” Davis said. “We never got into any offensive flow during the game. I think everyone was relying on Kelsey (Valencia) to make that miracle 3-pointer to get us back in the game.”
Curtiss was happy with the way his team handled the long delay.
“That was one of the first things we talked about,” Curtiss said. “A lot of things happened tonight. The late start, the injury, we stayed focus. We played well in the second half. Obviously, (Atwater) is one of the top contenders. To start league off with a win here is big for us.”
The Falcons now will have to see how long Lexi Valencia will be out. Atwater already lost starting center Natalie Rocha to a knee injury for the season.
“Lexi is a vital part of our offense,” Davis said. “She’s averaging about 10 points per game. It’s going to hurt if she’s out of our lineup.”
Golden Valley 43, Buhach Colony 32 in Merced – Delia Moore scored 17 points as the Cougars (5-9, 1-0 CCC) opened conference play with a win. Grace Mello added 11 points for GV.
Caly Curran led the Thunder (7-8, 0-1) with nine points.
El Capitan 63, El Capitan 26 in Turlock – Jada Washington poured in 20 points as the Bulldogs routed the Gauchos. El Capitan dropped to 9-7 overall and 0-1 in the CCC.
Orestimba 49, Le Grand 38 in Le Grand – Alexa Ultreras scored 18 points for the Bulldogs, but the Warriors outscored Le Grand 31-16 in the second half to win the Southern League opener for both teams.