Weather, illness and the holidays limited the number of practices between their season opener and the second game of the season for the Tehachapi Lady Warriors, and the rust showed. But quality teams find a way and that was the case as Tehachapi defeated McFarland 47-43 Tuesday night to improve to 2-0 on the young season.
“I was really excited for our big preseason matchup against McFarland. I thought it was an opportunity to measure ourselves against a great program,” said Tehachapi head coach Jimi Perkins. “I was extremely upset with our effort on defense and our carelessness with the basketball. The turnovers were absolutely atrocious. I’ve been preaching to my girls that effort and focus is something that we must bring to every game.”
Tehachapi forced plenty of early turnovers; however, their inability to execute in transition, causing their own turnovers in fast break situations, kept the game close in the first quarter with Tehachapi holding on to a 16-9 lead over the Cougars. The Lady Warriors trailed 7-6 for the first time this season before rolling off a 10-2 run to end the quarter. McFarland was playing their first game of the season following their CIF Central Section Division IV runner-up finish a year ago and an appearance in the Division III state playoff finals.
Tehachapi led for most of the second quarter and managed to build their first double-digit lead at 10 points before the Cougars hit back to back three-pointers to cut the Tehachapi lead to 22-18 at the half. Tehachapi also failed to score a field goal opportunity in the quarter with all six of their points coming from the free-throw line. It would be a busy contest for both teams at the stripe with a combined 50 fouls being assessed in the game, 25 on each team. The Lady Warriors were 15-of-33 from the free-throw line in the victory.
It would take most of the third quarter for Tehachapi to convert from the field when Irey Sandholt broke the Lady Warriors’ drought with 3:46 remaining. McFarland’s Adilene Lopez converted on two additional three-pointers in the quarter and kept McFarland within striking distance at 36-30 to begin the fourth quarter.
McFarland would take quick advantage opening the fourth on an 6-0 run to tie the game, then they would take a 39-38 lead from the free throw line with 3:55 to play. Tehachapi trailed for a minute before the Lady Warriors’ defense created a turnover and fast break that culminated with a Sandholt layup and a 41-all tie. Tehachapi then scored four more unanswered points with Aleiyah Bryant scoring on a layup and Teagan Thurman securing a steal on the defensive end before finding Sara Heier for the finishing layup to give Tehachapi a 45-41 lead with just under two minutes remaining.
Those would be the final field goals of the game as the last minute found both teams at the free throw line with Tehachapi converting two of their final four chances to build a 47-43 lead. The Cougars, despite being down four points in the final 30 seconds, elected to try for the turnover and not foul Tehachapi, who managed to dribble the ball into the frontcourt and kill most of the clock. Heier was called for traveling with 1.9 seconds left on the baseline but McFarland wasn’t able to overcome the deficit as Tehachapi improved to 2-0 on the season.
“I do see value in the win, and I understand our toughness showed a bit at the end of the game,” Perkins said. “I keep telling the team that good isn’t good enough and I think once we expect more of ourselves then we will be ready to make the step to being a great team.”
Thurman once again led Tehachapi with 24 points on 6-of-16 shooting and 10-of-15 from the free-throw line. She played much of the second half with three personal fouls but managed to continue to have an impact. Sandholt finished with 10 points while Ashley Neaderboamer chipped in with four points off the bench for Tehachapi.
The Lady Warriors will play the remaining games in December on the road, first at Burroughs (Ridgecrest) on Dec. 10 before a holiday break. They return to action at the Arvin High School Tournament on Dec. 26, playing the first game at Mira Monte High School against Paso Robles at 11:20 a.m.