The Cats looked lethargic in the opening quarter of the Lady Grizz Winter Classic championship game Saturday night, watching potential rebounds and Grizzlies go right past them. The put up only 8 points in the period: two 3-pointers from senior Sabrina Belquist and a bucket from junior Olivia Lo. Their occasional attempts to drive into the paint were stymied by the stout Gunderson interior defense. Grizzly guard Jada Nguyen put up 13 points on her own, leading Gunderson to a 17 – 8 lead when the quarter ended.
It took two more minutes, and an 11-point deficit (21 – 10), to wake the slumbering Cats. Belquist added two more 3s, Lo sunk another from close range, and improved motion in the offense allowed sophomore Natalie Anthony to get the ball in the paint for three layups. Despite the 14 – 6 Wildcat run, Los Gatos was still down by 3, but feeling much better, going into the half.
The Cats’ defense, often lackadaisical in the first half, came on strong in the second, sparked by the energy of senior Sara Chiala, making her first game appearance of the year. A 7 – 0 run in the first minute of the third gave the Wildcats a 31 – 27 lead, and they never looked back. Juniors Maddie Dewhirst and Ashley Poshard each scored a bucket on fast breaks. Lo sunk two from deep; Belquist added another. Because of the scoring from beyond the arc, the unforgiving Grizzly interior was forced to venture outward, opening up the key for drives to the hoop by Lo and freshman Casey Brennan. The Cats put up 18 in the quarter and held the Grizzlies to 4.
The Grizzlies fought valiantly in the fourth to cut the lead, but the Cats had an answer each time. Sophomore Morgan Burt hit two timely 3-pointers from the right corner to stem Grizzly runs, while Lo and Belquist each added a 3 (Belquist had six in the game, scoring a game-high 23; the Cats had eleven 3-pointers as a team) to secure the contest.
Belquist and junior Carlee King earned All-Tournament Team honors, while Lo was selected Tournament MVP. The Cats end the first quarter of their 24-game regular season with a record of 4 – 2; their next game will be Saturday against St. Francis at the Presentation Shootout.