Gaels get monkey off their back

PASADENA — Something had to give when the Holy Family High and Alverno girls' basketball teams met Thursday night without a win between the two squads.

It didn't look good for Holy Family starting out, but the Gaels bounced back and used a lot of double teams to force 28 turnovers and pull out a 28-21 victory. It may have taken a while for the victory to come, but it was perfect timing for the Gaels (1-12) in their Horizon League opener against Alverno at Foothill Community Church.

"It's good to get the monkey off the back, hopefully it's going to build up a lot of confidence as we proceed through January," Holy Family Coach Ernest Siy said. "We purposefully set up a tough preseason schedule just for tonight.

"We've basically been getting our butts kicked through December. To get a win tonight is obviously worth it."

The Jaguars (0-8, 0-2 in league) got the upper hand quickly with three straight three-pointers. Holy Family didn't get its first bucket until Natalia Neris laid one up and in after she forced a steal with 52 seconds left in the first quarter, bringing the score to 9-2.

The Gaels settled down in the second quarter and cut the deficit to two points (14-12) with a 10-5 run.

"A lot of it was nerves because I was stressing the importance of league maybe a little too much," said Siy, explaining the reason for the slow start. "As soon as we relaxed and started playing basketball we came through."

Defense was also key to the turnaround. Holy Family forced 10 turnovers in the second quarter and held the Jaguars to two points in the third quarter — both coming at the free-throw line with 26 seconds left.

Holy Family's Jennifer Rodriguez did all she could to make sure her team wasn't going to slip to 0-13. She scored five of her team's first seven points in the third and finished with a game-high 12 points (eight coming in the second half) and 13 rebounds.

Beating league-rival Alverno, which went unbeaten in league last season with the Gaels finishing runner-up, had a been a goal of Holy Family's for a long time, Rodriguez said.

"It feels really good," she said of the win. "We have been through so much in the preseason and now to get a win against Alverno, a team we have rivalry with, it feels good."

The Gaels built their lead to as high as 23-14 with an 11-0 run through the first six minutes of the third. Elena Lomeli had four points in the third and six points, 10 rebounds and five steals in the game for Holy Family.

"[Rodriguez] and Elena are key to our success," Siy said. "If they have a good game we are going to do well."

Holy Family pushed its lead to 28-18 on buckets from Rodriguez and Alexandra Mata (six points) with 3:15 left in the game. Alverno battled back and cut it to 28-21 with four straight points from Marissa Seanez. There was no comeback in the works, though, as both teams were kept off the board in the final two-and-a-half minutes of the game.

Lomeli said the win is something to build off moving forward.

"This is the starting point of our season and it's a good starting point because we are at the top," Lomeli said. "We want to stay there."

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