By Pat Turner
Brandeis is back on track.
After falling to District 28-6A leader Clark, the Broncos have reeled off three straight wins, two coming this past week against O’Connor (49-44) and Holmes (47-44).
Going into the final week before the Holiday Break, Brandeis (15-2, 5-1) is sharing second place with O’Connor (15-5, 5-1).
“It was a really big week,” Brandeis coach Jennifer Brewer said. “These wins were big. The fight in these girls is huge. They have a strong desire to win.”
Brandeis accomplished the feat in different fashion. In the match with O’Connor, consistent outside shooting told the story as Ariana Villa (13 points), Alexis Parker-Guzman (11 points) and Kaia Herrera (10 points) got the Broncos rolling right off the bat by soaring to a 14-4 lead.
O’Connor, backed by the scoring of Carleigh Wenzel (16 points) and the inside strength of Nicole Hemphill (11 points, 10 rebounds), stayed within striking distance after the rough first period, but the Broncos continued to come up with clutch work.
Holmes (13-5, 3-3) also create problems for Brandeis. Although the shots didn’t fall consistently, defense got the Broncos over the hump.
Villa, who scored 14 points, ignited the Broncos to a quick 8-2 lead with back-to-back 3-pointers. Holmes, however, got its offensive cranking with buckets from Laney Wheaton, who finished with 16 points, Diamond Sloan and Giselle Lopez-Chavez to push to a 14-12 lead.
The Huskies’ spark continued into the second quarter as 3-pointers from Victoria Gamez and Amathyst Gutierrez provided a 22-14 lead.
Brandeis quickly erased the deficit. Claire Hall knocked in a three and Sophia Haberer’s rebounding and points brought the Broncos within 25-23 at halftime.
Brandeis pulled in front midway through the third period, but Holmes got on another roll and owned a 37-33 lead following a layup by Gutierrez.
Holmes continued to hold the edge in the early stages of the fourth period, thanks to jumpers by Wheaton and Gamez.
Down the stretch, Brandeis gained control and kept it that way.
Alexis Parker’s alertness helped the cause. After a missed Broncos’ free throw, Parker quickly grabbed the rebound and put the ball in the net for a 42-41 lead.
Brandeis shut down the Huskies the rest of the way, coming up with turnovers while relying on Haberer and Hale’s rebounding.
In addition, Broncos succeeded at the free throw line with Herrera, who hit six of seven during that stretch, Haberer, Villa and Parker.
“Holmes played so well,” Brewer said. “They always do. We had to play better defense in the second half. We made sure everyone was helping. But we also needed to score. We got the points. The free throws were huge.”
Villa had a productive week. She put in double digits both games, but she also set up scoring opportunities for teammates and was a plus on defense.
“I was trying to help anyway I could,” Villa said. “If something wasn’t working for me, I found something else to do. I wanted to play unselfish and pass the ball around. Everyone was contributing.”
Despite the loss, Holmes still got into the win column during the week with a 49-26 win over Taft.
Alissa Martinez led the Huskies with 17 points and Wheaton added 15.
Clark was in top form the entire week, cruising past Stevens, 66-28, and Brennan, 61-47.
Ta’Niya Jackson led the Cougars past Stevens with 17 points, while Jessica Paz Y Puente helped with 14.
An explosive jumpstart also propelled Clark against Brennan.
The Cougars carved out a 17-10 advantage in the first period, but the real boost came in the second quarter. Holding the Bears to three points, Clark vaulted to a 33-13 at halftime lead and increased the margin to 54-26 in the third quarter.
Brennan had a strong run in the final quarter, but it wasn’t enough to catch the Cougars.
O’Connor had no side effects from its loss to Brandeis.
A few days after the setback, O’Connor rebounded with a 74-41 win over Marshall.
The Panthers showed more scoring balance with Shannon Bowden putting in 18 points and Christina Adeniran (15 points), Wenzel (14 points) and Hemphill (10 points) also hitting double figures.
O’Connor has a chance for more redemption Tuesday in a contest against Clark.
Brennan (16-8, 4-2) and Stevens (11-8, 4-2) also enjoyed victories.
Prior to stumbling against O’Connor, Brennan used 21 points from Alani Fluker and 14 by Giana Steward to race past Marshall, 72-43.
Stevens relied on a 20-6 run in the second period to set the tone for its 44-30 win over Jay.
Destiny Jenkins paced the Falcons with 21 points, while Jade Mitchell played a big role in the paint with 11 rebounds and six points.
Warren (6-14, 1-5) earned its first 28-6A win with a 53-44 victory over Jay.
Viviana Solis led Warren with 19 points.
Taft (8-11, 2-4) finished the week on a winning note as Myra Bell’s 16 points helped the Raiders top Warren, 47-33.