By Pat Turner
Coaches usually welcome the Holiday Break.
After all, getting away from the grind for a few days gives teams a chance to relax and get refreshed.
At the same time, coaches also wonder how their teams will respond when play resumes. For District 28-6A leader Clark, Brandeis (18-2, 8-1), O’Connor (17-6, 7-2) and Holmes (15-6, 5-4), the response was favorable as the four playoff contenders came away with victories.
Clark rolled to a 62-23 win over Warren. Brandeis topped Taft (9-13, 3-6), 47-28, O’Connor earned a 71-43 victory over Stevens (12-10, 5-4), and Holmes outlasted Brennan (12-10, 5-4), 55-47.
“You never know how you’re going to play after a break,” O’Connor coach Karmen Wilson said. “I was pleased. We came out and started fast. At times this season we’ve started flat, but we’ve been working on that. This was a good game for us.”
O’Connor, which went into the break with a 61-39 victory over Brennan, cruised to an 18-6 first-period lead on the balanced shooting provided by Carleigh Wenzel, who finished the day with 21 points, Nicole Hemphill (13 points), Christina Adeniran (14 points) and Juliana Tapia.
Stevens, which sits in a fourth-place tie with Holmes and Brennan, got a spark from Destiny Jenkins (21 points), who hit three straight 3-pointers to close the deficit to 20-15.
O’Connor quickly regained the upper hand. Adeniran came through with a three-point play and Alex Alvarez, who put in 12 points, hit two 3-pointers to put the Panthers back at a double-digit advantage.
Alvarez also finished the half with a bucket, while also setting up scoring opportunities for her teammates and helping on the defensive end.
“We had to win this game,” Alvarez said. “We had great communication. Everyone contributed. I was trying to do whatever I could to help. I was looking to get the ball to the scorers and score when I had the opportunity. We supported each other.”
After building the 33-23 halftime lead, Lopez and the Panthers continued to shine in the second half while holding the Falcons to 20 points.
League-leader Clark used a potent second quarter to gain control of its contest.
Clark carved out a 12-6 lead in the first quarter before going on a 23-point burst in the second frame for a 35-10 lead.
The Cougars continued to rely on its defensive tactics in the second half, holding Warren to 13 points.
Ta’Niya Jackson led Clark with 14 points. Hailey Adams added 11.
Brandeis got off to a slow start against Taft, but defense enabled the Broncos to enjoy a breakthrough.
Down 15-14 after the first quarter, Brandeis gained a 22-21 lead in the second period and showed even more aggressiveness in the second half while allowing seven points.
Brandeis, on the other hand, pulled away with the shooting and inside work of Claire Hale (16 points) and Sophia Haberer (13 points).
Holmes used a 16-4 run in the first period to get the edge on Brennan.
The Bears staged a few rallies with the shooting of Alani Fluker (15 points) and Anyssa Anderson (11 points), but Holmes responded each time with timely goals from Lanay Wheaton (24 points), Amathyst Guerrero and Larissa Sanchez.
Jay claimed its first 28-6A victory with a 47-41 win over Marshall.
Marshall (9-13, 1-8), led by Kristen McCall-Woods’s 12 points, owned a 13-12 lead in the first half. Jay (9-13, 1-8), however, got a 25-18 edge in the second period after holding the Rams to five points and getting solid point production from Alicea Persephone, who finished with 13 points.
Marshall cut into Jay’s lead into the third quarter as buckets by McCall-Woods and Abby Lebherz (10 points) brought the Rams within 34-33.
Jay finished strong with Jennifer Terraza-Campos (13 points) and Serena James (11 points) teaming with Persephone for much-needed offense.
Harlan looked sharp during its return to the court while registering a 55-35 District 25-5A win over Medina Valley.
Because of the success, Harlan (14-7, 5-1) moved into a first-place tie with Medina Valley (17-10, 5-1.
The Hawks began their surge with a 16-6 first-quarter lead and maintained the pace the remainder of the contest.