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Spartans take IVL opener

January 09, 2002|By RICHARD MYERS

Sports Editor

While watching his team warm up in El Centro on Tuesday night, Calipatria High girls basketball coach Les Boop was reminded of a Biblical passage.

"It's like David vs. Goliath," Boop said.

And for three quarters, little Calipatria had host Central High running scared. In the end, though, the Lady Spartans proved to be too much for Calipatria's Lady Hornets as they pulled out a 34-26 win here.

Boop called it a "David-vs. Goliath" mismatch because of the disparity between school enrollments, with Central boasting about four times as many students as Calipatria.

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"If we had won it would have really been big," Boop said.

While the Hornets lost, they made history.

"This was the first time we played one of the big schools in the Valley in a league game when it counted," Boop said, referring to the new Imperial Valley League format where the small schools are grouped with the large schools.

"Our goal was to beat all the large schools," Boop said.

And Calipatria nearly did it.

"You can't shoot 8-for-61 and expect to win, though," Boop said.

The Hornets connected on just 2-of-35 shots from the field in the second half as they saw a six-point halftime lead vanish.

"Our girls stepped it up in the second half," Central skipper Kristina Contreras said. "When we found the mismatch down low, we took advantage of it."

The mismatch involved Calipatria's inability to cover 5 foot 11 Janiece Manuel. Held scoreless in the first quarter, Manuel caught fire in the second period, finishing with 15 points to lead the Spartans.

"She came on strong," Contreras said of Manuel, who had a double-double as she pulled down 12 rebounds, including seven at the offensive end.

Also key in Central's push at the end was Steph Schuler. On four straight buckets at the end of the third period and the start of the fourth quarter, she fed assists to teammates. She also scored two hoops herself and came up with a key steal.

Schuler finished with nine points.

"Calipatria came out and played hard," Contreras said. "I have to give them credit."

The Hornets led 9-7 at the end of the first quarter and opened an 18-12 lead at the intermission. Calipatria went up by as many as eight midway through the third stanza at 22-14, but then Central started its rally.

Manuel triggered the surge by putting back an offensive rebound for two points. Jocelyn Taylor scored off a layup and hit the ensuing free throw to pull the Spartans to 22-19.

Schuler then closed the third quarter by feeding passes to Manuel and Alex Vazquez to lift Central into a 23-22 lead heading into the fourth period.

After Natasha Jackson scored for Calipatria to open the last stanza, Schuler fed Manuel twice down low for back-to-back buckets that sparked the Spartans to a 27-24 cushion. Calipatria never was able to regain the lead.

Taylor and Angelica Asaeli both scored four points for Central, and Vazquez added two.

Perez recorded a double-double for the Hornets, finishing with 11 points and grabbing 11 boards. She also came up with five steals.

Lilia Humble scored seven points for Calipatria, Rachel Zajdel hit three, Griselda Aceves and Natasha Jackson both popped two and Maria Velarde added one.

Velarde had nine rebounds along with two blocks. Perez also had five steals for the Hornets.

Manuel was an all-around force for Central as she also blocked three shots and had three steals. Asaeli had eight rebounds for Central and Schuler had six on the defensive end.

Central (5-7 overall, 1-0 IVL) hosts Southwest High on Friday, while Calipatria (8-4 overall, 0-1 league) travels Friday to Holtville. Both games start at 7 p.m.

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