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Lopez flirts with triple-double

January 18, 2002|By RICHARD MYERS

Sports Editor

IMPERIAL — Claudia Lopez nearly recorded a triple-double Thursday as Holtville High's girls basketball team caged the Imperial High Tigers 52-31.

Lopez finished with a game-high 17 points. She also pulled down 12 rebounds and came away with eight steals, including four in the third quarter when the Vikings pulled away.

"We've been working on our press," Lopez said.

Holtville used a full-court press, a half-court trap and other swarming defenses to thoroughly frustrate Imperial.

"They were very high-tempo," Tigers coach Rick Ponchione said. "They hustled all over the court."

Lopez wasn't the only Viking to enjoy a double-double. Her twin sister, Cindy Lopez, had 12 points and 11 rebounds along with five steals.

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The difference was Holtville's experience.

"They have nine seniors who have played together for six years," Ponchione said. "I started two seniors, two sophomores and a freshman."

At times Holtville swarmed three players around the Imperial ball handler, forcing turnovers.

"They'll get better," Holtville coach Jim Sturgeon said of Imperial.

He pointed out the Vikings prepped for Imperial Valley League play by playing much larger schools out of the area. Holtville took its lumps early, posting a 1-15 pre-league mark.

"They had some pretty tall girls," Claudia Lopez said of Holtville's early-season opponents. "But it helped us get ready for league."

The Vikings are 3-0 in the IVL. Imperial is 5-7 overall and 1-1 in league.

Imperial stayed with Holtville for most of the first half.

The Tigers trailed by five points at the end of the first quarter, and quickly fell behind by 10 early in the second, thanks to a bucket by Cindy Lopez, a free throw from Mykell Johnson and two charity tosses by Claudia Lopez.

But Imperial rallied, scoring seven unanswered points to get back within three. Melissa Gaston hit from underneath the basket, Alexa Olstowski drained an 8-footer and Rhea Deal added three on a 14-footer and a free throw.

That was as close as the Tigers would come, though, as Holtville gradually increased its lead to 28-18 at the half.

The Vikings tightened their defense in the third period, led by Claudia Lopez's four steals. Holtville held the Tigers to just two buckets and two free throws to grab a 46-24 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Imperial never was able to recover.

Besides the Lopez twins, Holtville got seven points from Johnson, eight from Liz Robinson, six from Marsela Valenzuela and two from Jizelle Avila.

Gaston and Deal led Imperial with eight points each. Steph Ortega dropped in six, Jenny Bowlan sank five, Olstowski hit three and Jennifer Stewart added one.

Holtville pounded the boards hard, sometimes getting four shots offensively on one trip up the court. Along with the Lopez twins, Valenzuela grabbed 12 boards for the Vikings.

Defensively, Valenzuela had five steals. Johnson had five steals along with six assists.

Deal pulled down 14 rebounds for Imperial and Olstowski had 10. Bowlan had eight boards. Deal had four steals and three assists, and Ortega had five steals.

Holtville hosts Calexico High at 7 p.m. Tuesday while Imperial is at Southwest High in El Centro at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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