Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera’s BriAnn Houghton keeps the ball away from a Bullard defender during Friday’s loss. Houghton scored a game-high 20 points.
The Madera Coyotes did what they could to stay within distance of the Bullard-Fresno Knights, but the Knights stayed just far away for a 57-46 County/Metro Athletic Conference victory in Joe Flores Gym.
The Knights drained 11 3-pointers, including four in a 21-point first quarter Friday night. However, the Coyotes were only outscored 36-34 in the remaining quarters.
“I thought the game came down to the first two or three 3-pointers they hit,” head coach Jason Smith said. “All week long, when we have been doing close out drills, we have been challenging shooters on our close outs. The first three or four, we closed out with our hands down. They buried them right in our face. Later on, they hit some big shots and we weren’t able to get one. Sofia was bottled up all night. She wasn’t getting any good looks.”
The Coyotes got a complete game from BriAnn Houghton. She recorded a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, both team highs.
Cathy Figueroa added 12 points and Madeleine McNeil scored nine points.
“Most of our stuff was going to the rack,” Smith said. “We had an advantage inside. They did a good job pressuring us in the backcourt.”
However, the Coyotes had trouble holding onto the ball. They shot reasonably well from the field (33 percent), but turned the ball over 29 times. They also forced 24 turnovers and Madera’s free throw shooting (18-of-32) kept them in the game.
“Turning the basketball over hurt us,” Smith said. “However, we were stronger with the basketball than we have been. We were making basketball plays without someone telling us what to do. Tonight, we took another step. This was a good game for us.”
The Coyotes jumped out to an early 8-5 lead after 12-foot jumpers from Miranda Solis and Figueroa, an offensive putback from Houghton and a short jumper from McNeil off a Figueroa assist.
Bullard counted by scoring the next eight points, beginning with a 3-pointer.
Houghton stopped the run with a steal and layup, but Bullard hit its third 3-pointer of the quarter.
Figueroa made a layup, but Bullard hit a short jumper and another 3-pointer for a 21-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Madera went on a 10-0 run to reclaim the lead. Houghton made four straight free throws and a short jumper. Figueroa made two free throws and Houghton ended the run with two more for a 22-21 lead midway through the second quarter.
In the run, the Coyotes forced five turnovers and pulled down six rebounds.
Bulalrd then hit back-to-back 3-pointers and a free throw to take a 29-22 lead. The Knights answered McNeil’s free throw with one of their own.
Sofia Perez made another free throw to cut the lead to six. Bullard hit another free throw and McNeil made a layup.
Bullard made two free throws and Figueroa hit another before the first half trailing 35-27.
Houghton opened the second half with a bucket. McNeil put back a miss and Madera cut Bullard’s lead to four.
The Knights answered with a free throw, but McNeil hit a short jumper to cut the lead to three.
However, Bullard made two 3-pointers and a jumper for an 8-0 run and a 44-33 lead with about 3:40 left in the quarter. Neither team scored until the start of the fourth quarter with Madera missing six shots.
Free throws from Figueroa and Houghton cut Bullard’s lead to nine. After a Bullard free throw, Figueroa turned a steal into a layup and Katelyn Fernandez made a free throw to get Madera within seven.
After Bullard made two free throws, Houghton made back-to-back buckets to get Madera within five midway through the fourth quarter.
However, the Knights hit another 3-pointer and a jumper to get the lead back to 10. Bullard answered two Figueroa free throws with another 3-pointer and two free throws for a 57-44 lead with 38.9 seconds left in the game.
Madera got free throws from Solis and Houghton, but it wasn’t enough in a 57-46 loss.