The Christmas season has come and gone and the new year is officially here. With 2019 now underway, the Calaveras High School girls’ basketball team can shift its focus from its preseason schedule to the Mother Lode League season.
With one final tune-up before league begins on Jan. 8, Calaveras ended the preseason on a high note with a 53-28 victory over the Bear River Bruins Thursday night at Mike Flock Gym in San Andreas. With the win, Calaveras enters league play with an overall record of 10-2.
The majority of coaches let it be known that they want their team to be playing its best basketball in January and Calaveras head coach Jeremy Malamed is no exception. His team enters the MLL season on a five-game winning streak and is fully healthy.
While Calaveras is playing good basketball, Malamed knows that it will be tested game after game during league play.
“I like where we are,” Malamed said. “I think these last two weeks have gotten us to a point to where we are ready for league. That’s not saying league won’t be a tough challenge, because it’s going to be a very tough challenge. We open with a gauntlet right away with Sonora and Argonaut. We’ll find out a lot right off the bat. Our goal has always been to ease into the season and start hitting our stride as league comes around and I think we are there.”
Thursday was Calaveras’ second time facing Bear River in a week. The two teams faced each other in the opening round of the Casa Roble Ram Jam Tournament on Dec. 27. Calaveras won that game 63-33. Having just seen Bear River was an advantage Calaveras didn’t pass up on.
“You already know their strengths and weaknesses, so it’s easy for us to plan for that,” said Calaveras freshman guard Madison Clark. “They also didn’t have a couple of girls the first time we played them, so we were heads up about that.”
The first eight minutes of the game gave everyone inside Mike Flock Gym a good idea about what the rest of the evening would have in store. Calaveras began with a 12-0 run and ended the first quarter with a 16-2 lead. Before Bear River could score, Calaveras got four points from Clark and senior Olivia Long and two points from junior Skyler Cooper and senior Lindsey Gaspers.
The Bruins didn’t score their first basket until 3:12 to play in the first quarter. Clark and junior Muriel Strange each added points in the final two minutes and Calaveras led by 14.
“When we came out and got that big lead, it really put the pressure on,” Clark said.
Bear River cut Calaveras’ lead to 18-6 with 5:15 to play in the first half, but Calaveras responded with a 9-0 run. Long scored four points in the paint, Clark went coast-to-coast and sophomore Alyssa Wyllie drained a 3-point basket to give her team a 27-6 lead with 2:11 left in the second quarter. Strange ended the half with two baskets and Calaveras took a 31-11 advantage into the locker room at halftime.
Calaveras’ defense dominated Bear River in the third quarter, allowing the Bruins to score only two points. Of Calaveras’ 12 points scored in the third quarter, seven came from Wyllie, including an and-1 three pointer. Wyllie finished the night with 12 points.
Thursday was only Wyllie’s fourth varsity game, as she was called up from the junior varsity squad a week ago for the Casa Robles Tournament. Malamed has until Tuesday to decide if he’ll keep her on the varsity squad or send her back to the JV team. If she plays in a varsity league game, she’ll need to stay on the team the remainder of the league season. But with the way Wyllie has played in her short varsity career, Malamed will have a tough decision to make.
“We’ll decide that this weekend,” Malamed said about whether Wyllie will stay on the varsity roster. “Once league starts, she’s either going to be JV or varsity. She’s played well enough to earn a spot to stay on varsity. The only question is, will we be able to get her enough minutes to make it worth wild? She definitely earned a right to be brought up and since she’s been brought up, she deserves the right to stay up.”
In regards to her four games on the varsity team, Wyllie said, “Honestly, I came out really comfortable. I love playing with these girls and it’s good to be on the court with them.”
Clark led Calaveras in scoring with 15 points to go along with her five assists and four steals. Long had 10 rebounds, eight points, four blocks and three steals. Wyllie had 12 points. Strange scored eight, with four boards and three steals. Senior Kylie Alurcon scored four, had three rebounds and two steals. Gaspers had four steals, three rebounds and two points. Cooper dished out three assists, had two points and two steals. And sophomore Ava Saiers had two points, two steals, a rebound and an assist.
With the Christmas break coming to an end, life will return back to normal. The break can often be a distraction and detrimental to some teams. For Malamed, he is happy to see how strongly his team played in their final preseason game.
“Being the last week of break, the girls are in such a different routine,” he said. “Honestly, I was happy the game went the way it did. It’s hard when the girls are sleeping in so late. I’ve got a daughter on the team and she’s sleeping in until 12 o’clock and they stay up late. It’s hard to get energy that way. We got out of the game healthy, got a good run in and now we are ready to focus on league.”
Calaveras begins Mother Lode League play on Jan. 8 against the Sonora Wildcats in San Andreas. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.