Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera’s Ximena Escobar goes up for a shot during Friday’s victory over Sanger. Escobar was second on the team with nine points.
It may have not looked like the best win, but for Jason Smith and the rest of the Madera Coyote girls basketball team, a win in the County/Metro Athletic Conference isn’t taken lightly.
The Coyotes opened the CMAC season with a 46-41 victory over the Sanger Apaches in Joe Flores Gym on Friday. The Coyotes did just enough to get the win despite shooting just 3-of-16 from 3-point range and 32 percent (16-of-50) from the field.
“We missed a ton of open jump shots,” head coach Smith said. “We haven’t shot the ball well from the perimeter all year. In the first half, they sagged off of Brianna Rubalcaba. I told her if they do that again, hit the 3-pointer. In the second half, she knocked down the 3-pointer. That was a key for us. We went on a run after that. We haven’t shot the ball well from the outside all year. Now is the time for us to start hitting them. I think we will.”
Alyssa Burton was the only Coyote in double figures with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Ximena Escobar added nine points and Ashley Hansen scored eight with two 3-pointers.
“We got some early break opportunities.” Smith said. “We shot the ball well from the free throw line. Ximena has been clutch all year and when they put her at the line, I thought they put the right person on the line. We did a good job at the line. Sometimes, that’s been our Achilles heel. Tonight, it was our saving grace. We’ll take it.”
Madera made seven of its last eight free throws to close out the game.
“The girls competed well,” Smith said. “What I was more proud of more than anything else, most of us did a fairly good job of holding our poise. The officials are going to call what they’re going to call. We’ve let that bug us too many times.”
The Apaches took an early 11-4 lead after a 3-pointer, but the Coyotes quickly got back in the game with six straight points. Hansen found Burton for a layup, Brianna Rubalcaba took a rebound all the way for a layup and Burton scored down low to cut the lead to one.
Escobar answered a Sanger layup with one of her own. Two Alyssa Fernandez free throws got the Coyotes within one at the end of the first quarter.
Off a Hansen inbounds pass, Escobar scored down low to give the Coyotes the lead. Hansen answered a Sanger layup with a 3-pointer, but Sanger hit one of its own to take a 20-19 lead.
The Apaches extended the lead to three before Hansen found Burton for another layup. An Escobar free throw and a driving Fernandez layup gave the Coyotes a 24-22 halftime lead.
Three-pointers from Rubalcaba and Hansen extended the lead to 30-22, but the Apaches scored the next six points, all layups to cut the lead to two while Madera turned the ball over three times and missed five straight shots.
Neither team scored in the final two minutes of the third quarter and Madera led 30-28 heading into the fourth.
Sanger quickly tied it with a jumper, but Burton scored twice for a four-point lead.
The Apaches scored three straight points, but a Burton bucket got the lead to three. Sanger added another free throw with 4:17 left to get within two.
Hansen scored on a driving layup with four minutes left for a four-point lead. Briann Houghton made a free throw. She missed the second, but Burton got the offensive rebound and was fouled trying a put back. She made both free throws for a 41-34 lead with 3:35 left in the game.
The Coyotes lost Hansen with 2:37 left in the game after she was hit with her fifth personal foul.
“We didn’t panic after Ashley went out,” Smith said. “Maria (Hernandez) did a good job. We were running clear outs for Alyssa Burton. Maria did a great job of feeding the post and Alyssa did a good job being strong.”
Burton added another free throw to get the lead to eight. Sanger came back with back-to-back buckets for a four-point Coyote lead with 1:30 left in the game. A Sanger 3-pointer cut the lead to one with 29 seconds left in the game.
The Apaches fouled Escobar and she hit both free throws with 12.6 seconds left in the game for a 44-41 lead.
After a time out, Sanger missed a 3-pointer and missed the offensive putback and Burton came down with the rebound. She was fouled and hit both free throws with 0.7 seconds left in the game to close out the 46-41 victory.