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Hilmar rally tightens WAC

LIVINGSTON -- It's not often you see a girls basketball coach start an impromptu mosh pit.

Hilmar coach Paul Willis emerged from the locker room and immediately started chest-bumping with players from the Hilmar football and boys basketball teams.

"Paul doesn't show any emotion, does he?" joked Hilmar football coach Frank Marques.

Willis had plenty to be excited about Thursday night, as Hilmar erased an 11-point deficit in the second half to defeat Livingston 45-38.

The win pulled Hilmar (5-1 Western Athletic Conference, 13-3 overall) into a first-place tie with Livingston (5-1, 13-3).

"Our coach is crazy," said guard Lindsey Mendes, who led Hilmar with 13 points. "He's the best."

Willis wasn't happy with what he saw in the first half.

Hilmar turned the ball over 13 times in the first two quarters and watched Livingston jump out to a 28-17 lead at the break.

"I was a little disappointed," Willis said. "It had been built up in the paper as No. 1 vs. No. 2, and I thought we came out flat."

However, Hilmar chipped away at Livingston's lead in the second half.

Mendes scored 11 points in the final two quarters and Caitlin Benning came up big off the bench with 10 points.

Hilmar cut the lead to 34-28 at the end of the third quarter and then outscored Livingston 17-4 in the fourth.

Livingston, which came into the game with just seven healthy players, ran out of gas.

Things only got worse for Luciana Naldi's girls when their top post player, Olivia Andam, missed most of the fourth quarter with a cramp in her calf.

"The fatigue finally showed up right about the time I thought it would," Naldi said.

Hilmar scored the final 10 points of the game and as the final seconds clicked down, Willis and his players began celebrating.

"The last two years, Livingston has had a really good team," Mendes said. "We finally pulled through and got it."



At Livingston High

Hilmar 10 7 11 17-- 45

Livingston 17 11 6 4-- 38

HILMAR -- Blake Lopes 8, Lindsey Mendes 13, Jessica Paine 3, Courtney Ramos 2, Megan Stroup 6, Shelbi Santos 1, Caitlin Benning 10, Madison Harris 2. Totals: 18 7-12 45. LIVINGSTON -- Ashlee Thompson 2, Neyri Zarco 3, Olivia Andam 5, Denise Pulido 11, Nina Garcia 12, Zaira Padilla 3. Totals 15 2-6 38.

3-pointers: Hilmar 2 (Mendes 1, Paine 1), Livingston 4 (Garcia 2, Pulido 1, Zarco 1); Team Fouls: Hilmar 12, Livingston 15. Fouled Out -- None.

Records: Hilmar 5-1 WAC, 13-3; Livingston 5-1, 13-3.

JV -- Hilmar won 41-39.