SOUTHWEST GLENDALE — The start to Tuesday evening's Horizon League girls' basketball contest was hardly picturesque.
But for all the chaos and, frankly, ugliness, as Holy Family was concerned, the first quarter was plenty effective.
The Gaels used their full-court press, the overall play of Gayle Lachica and the hot hand of Gaby Diaz to jump out to an early lead and never looked back on their way to a 55-32 league victory over visiting Sacred Heart of Jesus at the Pacific Park Community Center.
"I think the press definitely helped us," said Holy Family Coach Ernest Siy, whose Gaels improved to 3-10 and 1-1 in league after forcing 40 Sacred Heart turnovers. "It was definitely our strong suit tonight."
Both teams implemented a press, with Sacred Heart (1-8, 1-1) forcing 32 Holy Family turnovers.
The teams combined for 23 in a first quarter that saw four combined trips to the foul line in the first 2:09, but only a 1-1 score. But the Gaels — spearheaded by Diaz' game-high 19 points and Lachica's 11 points, 13 rebounds and six assists — eventually caught fire and scored the final nine points of the period to take a 16-5 lead into the second quarter.
"Gayle's really the anchor of the team, if she goes, the team goes," said Siy, who got three points, three boards and an assist from Lachica in the first quarter and six points from Diaz. "[Lachica] set the tone and Gaby set the tone."
In the quarter, Holy Family forced 15 turnovers, outrebounded the Comets, 9-5, and made six of 15 shots to a two-for-10 performance from Sacred Heart. The biggest basket came when Diaz sank a three-pointer at the 1:33 mark before Natalia Neris knocked down a long ball of her own with 53 seconds left.
"It did get our confidence up," said Diaz of the back-to-back three-pointers during the 9-0 run to close the quarter. "If I start making shots, I feel confident."
The confidence showed when Sacred Heart cut the lead to 19-11 before Diaz scored a layup off her own steal and followed it up with another three in a 41-second span in the second quarter that began another 9-0 run.
As a result of the press and some clawing defense, both teams took to the foul line in the early going, though Holy Family's chances waned in the second half. Both squads struggled mightily though, with the Gaels making just four of 13 charity shots, while Sacred Heart had no success denting Holy Family's lead with a woeful six-of-21 performance from the line. The Comets also struggled from the floor, hitting just 12 of 44 shots (27%). In contrast, though the Gaels struggled from the line, their shots from the field fell in bunches, as they shot 44% (25 of 57).
"We finished a lot of our plays," Diaz said. "Our shots were going in and we worked together."
Sacred Heart managed to whittle Holy Family's lead to single digits at 29-21 in the third, but Diaz scored six points in an 8-2 run to close the period, including back-to-back runners in a 27-second sequence to bring the lead back up to 37-32 at quarter's end.
Jennifer Rodriguez also had eight points for the Gaels, who got nine rebounds from Elena Lomeli.
The win comes two days ahead of a league road game against Bishop Conaty-Loretto and five days removed from a league-opening loss against Alverno.
"That was our goal this week was to get at least one win, now the goal is to go 2-0," Siy said. "They bounced back well from getting beat by Alverno.
"Our goal is definitely to make the playoffs, but we can still win league, it's definitely attainable."