Samantha Rodriguez is a rare sight on the bench.
The Western Athletic Conference’s leading scorer and primary scorer for Pacheco High School girls basketball team does a little of everything for the Panthers. So when Pacheco coach Michael Perkins opted to give his star a rest to open the fourth quarter on Tuesday night, an opportunistic El Capitan squad went for the jugular.
The Gauchos never trailed in the game, but couldn’t seem to pull away from the Panthers after three quarters, either. That changed in the fourth as El Capitan took advantage of Rodriguez’s absence with a quick 7-0 run. Pacheco never recovered and El Cap pulled away for a 41-21 victory at the Stable Center.
“It was one of the things I was really proud of tonight,” Gauchos coach Michael Davenport said. “The girls recognized that (Rodriguez) wasn’t on the court to start that fourth quarter and really turned it on.
“We always preach to the girls that our defensive energy is going to fuel our offense, and they certainly did that in the fourth quarter. It just seemed like we kept letting them hang around, so it was nice to finally create a comfortable lead.”
The Gaucho defense and a cold shooting hand proved Pacheco’s undoing after the break.
Still searching for their first conference win, the Panthers trailed 23-16 at intermission. El Capitan (5-16, 3-8 WAC) forced 15 second-half turnovers and its 2-3 zone limited the Panthers (3-17, 0-10 WAC) to just 1 of 18 shooting in the second half.
Pacheco started the second half well enough, with a pair of Emily Ocampo free throws and a Rodriguez (11 points) three-pointer pulling Perkins’ squad within five for the first time since the opening quarter. It would be the Panthers’ last points of the game.
“They really didn’t do anything special against her defensively, Samantha just missed a lot of shots in the second half,” Perkins said. “She was 1 for 9 on layups and had a couple 3s rim out, so it easily could have been a different night. We need other kids to step up when she’s having an off night like that, and unfortunately we didn’t get it.
“Unfortunately, this isn’t new territory for us. Our effort wasn’t consistent enough for four quarters to get a win. We’ve got two games left to try and put something together.”
Jennifer Soriano (team-high 10 points) got the Gauchos off to a fast start, scoring six points in a 15-8 opening quarter.
El Capitan expanded its lead to 10 behind Remi Moses (eight points) and Angelica Navarette (six points, six rebounds) in the second quarter, but a Rodriguez 3 at the buzzer kept Pacheco in striking distance going into the break.
“I thought our kids did a much better job of forcing the ball our of (Rodriguez’s) hands in the second half and limiting her space when they swung it back to her,” Davenport said. “We felt like if we could do that and then put pressure on everyone else, we’d have success.”
Sun-Star staff writer Sean Lynch can be reached at (209) 385-2476 or email@example.com.