Brawley responded to the challenge, punctuating the march to the IVL title with the win over Southwest.
"In that first half, that first quarter, everyone on the team kind of got down. But then in the second half, Lucia (Garcia) started making some threes and we got back into it," said the Wildcats' Reggie Horta, who finished with 13 points. "She started getting it going in the second half and just did a really good job. Then after that, our defense just picked it up."
Garcia hit five treys in the second half, three in the fourth quarter alone.
Winning another IVL title didn't come easy.
First was the challenge posed by Southwest, arguably the hottest team in the Valley. The Eagles had their sights set on the IVL championship as they entered the game tied for first with Brawley.
The Wildcats also overcame a lot of adversity throughout the season.
In the league opener against Calexico, they lost senior captain Kaylin Rubin, the team's best defender, for the season to an anterior cruciate ligament injury. Later in the season they lost starting center Ebony Lofton to an ACL injury and they lost their backup center to grades.
Despite playing without three of its top six players, Brawley won its final seven games, including the pennant-clinching win against Southwest.
Ignited by Ericka Antunez's opening bucket, the Eagles jumped to a 13-5 lead and eventually held a 17-12 advantage after a quarter.
In the second quarter, it was all Horta for Brawley. Horta scored all nine of the Wildcats' points to pull them within two at the half.
Brawley outscored the Eagles 13-8 in the third quarter. Garcia first buried a three that tied the game at 31-31 and then swished another trey to give the Wildcats a 34-31 advantage at the end of three.
Despite eight more points in the fourth by Antunez, who finished with a game-high 22 points, it was three three-pointers by Garcia that made the difference for Brawley.
Garcia finished with a team-high 18 points, all from behind the arc, and Brooke Pace added 10 points.
Antunez also finished with five rebounds. Gloria Beltran added nine points and Denice Rios had six assists and three steals for Southwest. Tasha Ernest added seven rebounds for the Eagles.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, Southwest coach Ruben Valenzuela had mixed emotions about the game and the season.
"As much as this loss hurts, people around the Valley didn't expect us to do as well as we did. And we just proved everybody wrong," he said. "What I am disappointed about is girls like Ericka Antunez, like Monnett De La Torre, just all the seniors on this team, who I feel deserve an IVL championship. It's going to hurt for today and tomorrow, but come Saturday, we'll refocus."
Saturday the Eagles and Wildcats find out their post-season fates as the CIF San Diego Section playoff brackets are announced.
"We're going to start getting ready for CIF, so we can go in there, us along with Brawley, and make those San Diego Section teams respect us," Valenzuela said. "I just really can't wait until we start our next practice, because we're going into CIF like we have nothing to lose."
Brawley finishes the IVL season with an 8-2 record and Southwest ends with a 7-3 mark.
Holtville 63, Palo Verde 29
HOLTVILLE — Mykell Johnston had 13 points and nine assists Thursday to lead Holtville High's girls basketball team to a 63-29 win over visiting Palo Verde High and the Desert League championship.
The Vikings finish league play with a 6-0 mark.
Liz Robinson had 12 points for Holtville, Marisela Valenzuela tallied 11 and Claudia Lopez had nine points and 14 rebounds.
Imperial 35, Calipatria 25
IMPERIAL — Rhea Deal scored 21 points and pulled down five rebounds Thursday as Imperial High's girls basketball team bounced visiting Calipatria High 35-25.
Alexa Olstowski had 10 rebounds for Imperial (3-3 Desert League).
Lillia Humble led Calipatria (3-3) with nine points.
Central 49, Calexico 38
CALEXICO — The Central Union High girls basketball team wrapped up the regular season with a 49-38 Imperial Valley League victory over Calexico High here Thursday.
Leading Central were Janiece Manuel with a game-high 17 points, followed by Stephanie Schuler with 12 and Jocelyn Taylor with six.
Lizeth Lopez finished with 14 for Calexico, followed by Karla Salazar with 11 and Melissa Noriega with seven.
Central finishes the year with a 5-5 mark in the IVL and Calexico finishes 2-7.