The Modesto High girls basketball team has had several players make big plays at big moments this season.
"That is what's great about this team," Panthers point guard Angelita Ochoa said. "We know we can turn to just about anybody when we need it."
Tuesday night, it was sophomore Felicia Cardenas' turn.
Cardenas' 3-pointer with 3:13 left in the game broke a tie score, giving Modesto a lead it wouldn't relinquish in a 54-51 victory over Beyer at Panther Palace. Cardenas came off the bench to score 13.
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Modesto (11-9, 5-1) remains tied for first place in the Modesto Metro Conference with Enochs thanks to the victory. Beyer (14-7, 3-3) fell two games back with four to go.
The Panthers received big efforts from several players. Junior guard Kelsey Lemasney led the way with 15 points. Sophomore forward Love Grewal made a 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter, tying the game.
And Ochoa was all over the court. She scored 10 points, and also had several assists and made some big defensive plays. Her free throw with 24.1 seconds left gave the Panthers a 4-point lead, although it wasn't safe until the Patriots missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime.
Cardenas, a 5-foot-4-inch guard, scored all of her points in the second half. She had six in a row midway through the third period. And in the fourth, she had the big 3-pointer and, two possessions later, grabbed an offensive rebound off her own missed 3-pointer, driving inside for a layup.
"She was our spark tonight," Ochoa said.
Beyer battled back by pounding the ball inside to 6-2 senior Becca Biard (17 points). Patriots guard Brittney Jackson also gave the Panthers problems by driving inside and making contact to draw the foul. Jackson had 14 points.
"Modesto has so many good guards," Beyer coach Paul Basey said. "We wanted to get the ball inside to Becca, which slowed down their transition as well.
"Our problem wasn't our offense. It was that we gave up 54 points."
Modesto and Enochs appear poised to go down to the wire. They play each other in their season finale. Beyer, meanwhile, has a new goal.
"The league championship, we're pretty much out of it now," Basey said. "But we're No. 15 in the (Sac-Joaquin Section playoff) power ratings. With 16 teams going to the playoffs, we're trying to win as many games as we can to go to the postseason.
"Our new goal is the playoffs. It's been a couple years since we've gone."
Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.