Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera guard Maria Hernandez tries to drive the lane in Friday’s loss to Bullard. Hernandez scored nine points.
Despite playing in its own gym, the Madera Coyotes girls basketball team had trouble getting the ball through the hoop in a 55-45 County/Metro Atlantic loss to the Bullard-Fresno Knights.
The Coyotes shot just 28 percent (15-of-53) from the field, including making just 2-of-17 (12 percent) 3-pointers Friday.
“We have to finish,” head coach Jason Smith said. “We have to put the ball in the hole. You have to give Bullard credit. They made us play at a high tempo pace and we made a lot of mistakes from it.”
Alyssa Burton was the only Coyote in double figures. She scored 20 points and pulled down 14 rebounds. Maria Hernandez scored nine points and Ashley Hansen added eight.
“It was a real physical game,” Smith said. “Their athleticism and strength hurt us. There was a lot of body contact on our ball handlers that hurt us. If we make layups and open shots, it’s a different scenario. We’re in our own gym and we’ve played better on the road than at home. We had a lot of ball go off our fingertips and a lot of forced passes. The pace of the game was too much for us. We got rushed. They did a good job of speeding us up and we didn’t do a good job of finishing. That shouldn’t happen. We’re a veteran team and in our own place.”
The Coyotes hosted San Joaquin Memorial-Fresno on Tuesday and will play at Edison-Fresno on Friday. In the first round, the Coyotes held off the Panthers, 49-45 and the Tigers defeated the Coyotes, 53-52, for their only CMAC victory.
“That’s got to change big time Tuesday night,” Smith said. “Tonight was a big game, it was a horrible loss, but it’s not the end of the world. We have to get the next one, get over this and get some rest. We have to put our head down, finish and put the ball in the hole.”
The Coyotes jumped out to an early 6-0 lead after two buckets from Burton and a layup from Brianna Rubalcaba.
After a Bullard layup, Burton hit a seven-footer for an 8-2 lead. Bullard countered with two free throws, but Rubalcaba hit a 3-pointer for an 11-6 lead.
The Knights made two more free throws, but Hansen found Burton for a layup and a 13-8 lead.
Bullard took the lead with two 3-pointers and a free throw for a 15-13 lead heading into the second quarter.
Burton put back a missed shot to tie the score. After a layup, Ximena Escobar put back a Madera miss for a 3-point play. Hansen made another free throw for a 19-17 lead.
The Knights came back with a bucket and a 3-pointer to take a 22-19 lead.
Hansen made two free throws to get the lead down to one. However, Bullard made two layups and a free throw for a six-point lead.
Hansen made two more free throws, but Bullard also made two. Burton put back a miss, but the Knights closed the half with a free throw and a short runner for a 32-25 halftime lead.
Burton opened the second half with a layup and two free throws to cut Bullard’s lead to three. After the Knights made a layup, Burton made another to keep the lead at three.
Bullard answered with a 3-pointer and Hernandez made a layup for a 37-33 Bullard lead.
Three minutes passed before either team scored. Bullard ended the drought with back-to-back 3-pointers to open the lead to 10.
Hernandez completed a 3-point play to cut the lead to seven at the end of the third quarter.
The Knights opened the fourth with three straight buckets to open a 49-36 lead.
Madera tried to come back with a Hernandez layup. However, Madera missed its next three shots while forcing four Bullard turnovers before Hansen hit a 3-pointer with 3:24 left in the game.
Madera had two more chances to cut into the lead, but a turnover and a missed 3-pointer led to a Knights bucket and get the lead back to 10.
Burton made a free throw to cut the lead to eight. Madera turned the ball over on its next possession and missed a 3-pointer. Meanwhile, the Coyote defense forced another turnover and two missed shots to stay in the game.
Hermandez made two free throws with 1:05 left to cut the lead to six. The Coyotes got a rebound on a missed Bullard free throw, but missed two shots on their next possession.
Bullard then sank two free throws with 25.4 seconds left to put the game out of reach. Two more free throw with 13.5 seconds left gave the Knights a 55-45 victory.
In the fourth quarter, the Coyotes were 3-for-15 and 1-for-7 from 3-point range.