Marauders come back to win semifinal game

Monache’s Jalissa Miranda dribbles the ball against Sierra Pacific. After defeating Sierra Pacific, the Marauders will next face Tehachapi in the Division II Central Section Championship game.(Kason Clark)

Monache girls basketball overcomes a third-quarter deficit to defeat Sierra Pacific; Marauders now advance to the Division II Central Section Championship game to face Tehachapi

PORTERVILLE – Monache girls basketball has dominated throughout the season, but it faced a tough test in its Division II Central Section Championship semifinal game this past Wednesday night. At home, the No. 1 seed Marauders found themselves trailing the No. 4 seed Sierra Pacific Bears, 39-31, late in the third quarter.

But with their season on the line, the Marauders returned to form as they fought back to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. They then dominated the rest of the way to pull away for the 57-48 victory on Feb. 21 to advance to the Central Valley championship game.

“I’m proud of my kids for sticking together and making some clutch shots down the stretch,” Monache head coach Jonathon Bartlett said about the comeback. “We struggled in the first half putting the ball in the hoop, but tonight in the second half, they came together.”

It was the 15th straight win for the Marauders as they improved their overall record to 30-2 this season. Before playing Sierra Pacific, the Marauders dominated their first two games of the postseason with wins over Edison and Liberty. After falling short in last year’s postseason, Shelley Andrade and her teammates came into this postseason motivated to work together to go on a run.

“We’ve just been counting on each other. Our main thing this year has been sticking together and playing together,” Andrade said. “Tonight, we really showed that we need to be together as a team to really win, and we showcased that throughout the season to prove that we deserve to be where we are today.”

Andrade led the Marauders with 18 points against the Bears, but it was a team effort in their comeback victory. Alisha Verdejo contributed 13 points in the winning effort while Kyah Bartlett and London Haynes each scored nine points. Milly Rojas also made an impact with eight points in the win.

The Monache offense had a solid start to the night, jumping out to a 9-2 lead. But the Bears quickly erased that deficit to tie the game. Over the rest of the opening frame, the Marauders and Bears exchanged buckets until it was tied, 13-13, heading to the second quarter.

In the second quarter, the two teams continued to exchange scores. The Marauders looked like they were about to take control as they eked out a 22-18 lead late in the half. But the Bears went on a 6-0 run to take a 24-22 lead. The Marauders and Bears then exchanged scores to make it a tie game at 26-26 heading into halftime.

The two teams exchanged buckets to open the third, but the Bears found a spark to go on an 11-2 run. Now trailing, 39-31, late in the third quarter, Jonathon Bartlett had to rally his team in order to keep their season alive.

“I told them to go out there and play hard,” Bartlett said to his team in the third quarter. “We have a little bit more experience than the Bears and I know if we put pressure on them down the stretch, we would be okay.”

And that pressure worked as the Marauders shut out the Bears the rest of the quarter. Monache then got its offense going with a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 39-37 heading to the final quarter. The Bears opened the fourth with a 3-pointer, but Monache responded with a 6-1 run to tie the game. Sierra Pacific knocked down another three to take a 46-43 lead halfway through the fourth. But the rest of the game belonged to Monache.

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Monache’s Kyah Bartlett dribbles the ball against Sierra Pacific. Along with advancing to the Central Valley title game with the win, the Marauders won their 15th straight game to improve to 30-2 this season. (Kason Clark)

The rest of the night, the Marauders looked like they had all season as they dominated with a 14-0 run over the next few minutes. Verdejo led the way with five points during this run as the Marauders stretched their lead to 57-46 after trailing just a few moments ago. As the Marauders finally pulled away, Andrade believes she and her teammates began to play like themselves again.

“We just came together and said this isn’t our team right here,” Andrade said. “We needed to come together, find the way we play, just go out there and show everyone this is what we’ve been working for.”

The Marauders have now clinched their spot in the Division II Central Section Championship game, where they will face No. 3 seed Tehachapi at Selland Arena in Fresno. As the Marauders look to bring home a Central Valley championship, they will look to play hard like they have all season.

“We have to just continue what we’ve been doing,” Andrade said. “We just need to work together and fight hard to the very end.”

“I’ll tell them to just go out there and play with your heart because it’s not guaranteed that we get back to his place,” Bartlett said. “They’ve worked hard all season, they’ve proven themselves and they’re going to go out there and I think they’re going to be on top.”

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