Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera’s Camile Nunez fires a long-range 3-pointer to close out the first quarter with an 18-7 lead during Wednesday’s victory over the Sanger Apaches.
The Madera Coyotes girls basketball team jumped out to a nine-point halftime lead and held on by its fingernails to pull out a 47-46 victory over the Sanger Apaches in Joe Flores Gym.
The Apaches, who never led in the game, outscored Madera 13-5 in the third quarter to get the game close, but the Coyotes made enough free throws at the end to pull out the win.
The key to the game was free throws and fouls. Sanger was called for 32 fouls Wednesday night, which led to 42 Coyote free throws. Although Madera made 18 (42 percent), Sanger only attempted 14 and made just five (36 percent), a 13 point difference.
“I told one of the moms in the stands and said, ‘If we lose this games, it’s because of free throws,’” head coach Jason Smith said. “We shot under 50 percent from the line. We work on free throws every day. We do 15-20 minutes of free throws every day under different situations. Camile (Nunez) and Cathy (Figueroa) knocked down some huge free throws. That was the difference in the game. We made the ones that counted, but we shouldn’t have put ourselves in that situation.”
Nunez led three Coyotes in double-figures with 13 points to go with a team-leading nine rebounds. Figueroa scored 11 points and Stephenie Jordan scored 10. BriAnn Houghton added eight to go with eight rebounds.
“We attacked them really well. Camile being back and being strong and attacking the rim, Cathy attacked the rim really well and BriAnn attacked the rim. But it’s players like Andrea (Garcia) and Stephenie and how much they have improved the last six months. They were lights out. Andrea got them in foul trouble because of how tough her defense was.”
Houghton started off the scoring with a short jumper. After Sanger tied the score with a short jumper, Jordan drained a 3-pointer, but Sanger hit one of its own to keep the score tied.
The Coyotes then went on a 10-0 run to take control of the game. Nunez started the run by going two-for-four from the free throw line. Houghton made a pair and Figueroa made two more. Kaylee Patlan came up with a steal and went all the way for a layup.
Jordan drove baseline for a layup for a 15-5 lead. Sanger stopped the run with a short jumper, but Nunez closed out the quarter in exciting fashion.
With time running out, Nunez took two dribbles and unleashed a 35-foot three-pointer. The ball banked in as the first quarter buzzer sounded for an 18-7 lead.
Sanger opened the second quarter with a three-point play and an offensive putback to cut the lead to six.
Houghton added a free throw and Sanger made two-of-four.
Jordan, off a pass from Figueroa, scored on a layup, but Sanger made one of its own for a 22-16 Coyotes’ lead.
A minute of scoreless basketball later, Sanger broke the drought with a short bucket, but Figueroa answered with a six-foot jumper.
After another Sanger offensive setback, Houghton converted a 3-point play and Figueroa made two free throws for a 29-20 halftime lead.
“That was, hands down, the best half I’ve seen,” Smith said. “We executed on both ends of the floor. We stayed out of foul trouble. We moved our feet and rebounded well. For us, that was as close a perfect half.”
Sanger opened the second half with a bucket and a 3-pointer. Nunez came back with a four-foot jumper, but Sanger hit another 3-pointer to cut the lead to three.
Almost three minutes went by without either team scoring before Andrea Garcia made a free throw with 1:37 left in the quarter. Sanger answered with a 3-pointer.
Nunez hit a short jumper to get the lead to three, but the Apaches made two free throws with nine seconds left to cut the lead to 34-33.
Nunez opened the fourth quarter scoring by sinking two free throws. Jordan made a 3-point play and the Coyotes opened a 39-33 lead. Unfortunately, the Coyotes missed their next six free throws.
Sanger got the lead down to four with a 10-foot jumper, but Figueroa quickly answered with a layup.
Sanger scored on back-to-back layups with Madera’s Sofia Perez’s free throw in the middle to cut the Coyotes’ lead to 42-39 with 1:28 left in the game.
After a missed Sanger free throw, Jordan hit Figueroa for a layup. After a Sanger turnover, Nunez hit two free throws to increase the lead to seven with 39.4 seconds left.
Sanger was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 26.1 seconds left and made two-of-three free throws to cut the lead to five. After two missed Coyote free throws, Sanger put back an offensive rebound to cut the lead to three.
Figueroa hit the second of two free throws with 10.5 seconds left for a 47-43 lead.
Sanger worked the ball down the court and hit a 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds left to cut the lead to one.
Madera turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds pass, but Sanger threw the ball out of bounds with a second left to secure a Coyotes’ victory.