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Career milestone is nice, but Atwater star happier to deliver championship to coaches

Atwater’s Lexi Valencia

Atwater High senior Lexi Valencia talks about the Falcons winning the Central California Conference championship. Valencia also went over 1,000 career points in the win over Buhach Colony.
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Atwater High senior Lexi Valencia talks about the Falcons winning the Central California Conference championship. Valencia also went over 1,000 career points in the win over Buhach Colony.

Lexi Valencia went into the locker room at halftime on Thursday night against Buhach Colony with 999 career points — and everyone wearing even a speck of blue in the gym seemed to know it.

Valencia’s Atwater teammates definitely knew it as they tried to force feed her the ball at times early in the game. Her coaches surely knew it as they encouraged her from the bench. Even the student section knew it as they let out a collective sigh after each missed shot.

“It was in her head,” said Falcons coach JR Davis. “It was frustrating in the beginning because they were forcing it.”

It was a layup early in the third quarter that put Valencia over the 1,000-point career mark and her teammates and the student section went wild. The celebration continued after the game as the Falcons (22-6 overall and 11-1 in the Central California Conference) clinched the outright CCC championship with an 83-48 win over Buhach Colony in the Thunder Dome.

“It honestly doesn’t feel real,” said Valencia, who finished with 13 points to join her twin sister Kelsey in Atwater’s 1,000-point club. “It’s crazy how much we’ve talked about and we finally did it. As happy as I am for our team, I’m even happier for our coaches. They are the best people on the planet and we did this for them.”

Since losing to El Capitan 59-56 on Jan. 10, the Falcons have closed the season on a mission. Atwater finished the regular season with nine straight wins and they were all blowouts.

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The Atwater High girls basketball team poses for a picture after clinching the Central California Conference championship with an 83-48 win over Buhach Colony on Thursday night at Buhach Colony High. Photo By Shawn Jansen/Merced Sun-Star

Atwater has won its last nine games by an average deficit of 37 points.

“I think that game lit a match under us,” Davis said. “Our practices have been amazing since that loss. I’ve never had a group of girls play together like this. We’ve always had good chemistry, but this group has taken it to another level.”

The Falcons’ relentless pressure took over the game early as Atwater closed the first quarter with a 12-0 run to open up a 21-11 lead. The Falcons extended the lead to 45-24 by halftime.

By the final buzzer, 10 different Falcons had scored. Marisa Martinez tied Lexi Valencia for a team-high with 13 points. Kelsey Valencia and Jessica Reyes both finished with 12 points.

“There are haters out there that said we’re not as good as people say we are,” Lexi Valencia said. “There are people who say we’re overrated. We worked hard to do this. This team definitely deserves it.”

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