Enochs girls fall; future is bright

Youth and a major injury caught up to the Enochs High girls basketball team Thursday.

Enochs' inexperience cost them in the final minute of a 64-61 loss to McNair of Stockton in the first round of the Division I Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

Jessica Lejarzar, Enochs' lone senior, said even during the spotty times -- such as when any of three McNair players made wide open 3-pointers -- she felt Enochs (18-9) could recover.

"I thought, 'We could have this,' " said Lejarzar, who finished with nine points. "We had it right in our hands."

An Enochs player received a technical foul for trash-talking with about a minute left, resulting in two made free throws that gave a McNair a 59-56 lead.

McNair (21-7) made five of its final eight free throws while Enochs missed two shots, then let the clock wind down to three seconds.

After Shanika Blunt's lay-in cut McNair's lead to two, 63-61, with 20 seconds to play, Enochs didn't seem to understand it needed to foul again.

"We had a little bit of panic under that pressure defense we haven't seen all year," Enochs coach Ted Bergerson said. "The girls played as hard as they could. We had a couple miscues at the end."

Enochs took a 16-9 lead in the first quarter despite the absence of starting sophomore point guard Jalissa Freeman, who suffered a knee injury last week.

McNair (21-7) rallied with four 3-pointers in the second quarter, two by Anna Nguyen (14 points), to pull within 32-29 at halftime.

Enochs opened the second half with a 6-2 run to take a 38-31 lead, but couldn't shut down McNair's outside shots.

McNair made nine 3-pointers, including two in a row as part of an 8-0 run that saw Enochs' 45-41 lead disappear in less than a minute. McNair went ahead 49-45 with 6:55 remaining, a momentum boost that carried it through.

Freshman VeAnne Navarro filled in well for Freeman, giving Enochs a different style and more speed.

"I appreciated that she stepped up," Blunt said. "Everyone played up to this level. They played like seniors. We were ready to win."

Sophomore Taylor McCain led Enochs with 22 points. She'll be part of an Eagles squad aiming to claim the Modesto Metro Conference title outright next season, instead of sharing as it did this year with Modesto High.

"To have 10 people with four starters back, that's so invaluable here," Bergerson said. "To have our point guard out with a blown knee and almost beat a 20-7 team is a big deal."

Related stories from Merced Sun-Star