Old rivalries never die. The traditional preseason girls basketball game between El Dorado and visiting Ponderosa is as important to the players as games were when the teams competed in the Sierra Valley Conference.
For the second year in a row, the Lady Bruins came out on top Tuesday, edging El Dorado 44-41 and ending the Lady Cougars’ 50-game winning record on their home court.
Tuesday’s game proved that those first preseason games are not always pretty. Ponderosa blew several big leads in the game, starting with their 12-point advantage in the first quarter keyed by Ashley Beck’s nine points that included two threes. Sam Reeder’s shot from the top of the key and Lizzi Danke’s putback cut into the Bruin advantage and left El Dorado trailing 16-8 at the end of the period.
“We always make it hard,” Ponderosa coach Noel O’Donnell said. “But we made good decisions at the end, picked up the intensity and dug deep to get this win.”
The Cougars made a run to tighten the score in the second qurter behind Reeder’s wing three, Jessica Heinrichs’ coast-to-coast layup and Danke’s two free throws, but Morgan Martinenko answered with a three for the Bruins and Jensen Lewis and Brooke Sinner accounted for three freebies.
Sabrina Tate’s bucket on an assist from Emily Boyd for El Dorado sent the teams into the break with Ponderosa still on top by six, 30-24.
The Bruins held El Dorado scoreless for more than six minutes of the third and extended their lead to 10 on Beck’s layup followed by Sophia George’s putback. But the seemingly comfortable lead dissolved as El Dorado turned up the defense and returned the favor. Ponderosa shot blanks from midway through the quarter until the 4:07 mark of the fourth.
The Cougar comeback was sparked by a big block from Courtney Macklin. Tate grabbed the loose ball and raced down court for a shot. Her layup missed but Macklin was there for the rebound and putback, the start of a five-point run that pulled El Dorado within four to open the last eight minutes. Tate nearly cut it to two with a one-handed desperation toss that swished but was a victim of the buzzer.
Two early Bruin turnovers — one on Leah Headd’s tipped pass that Macklin retrieved — helped the Cougars take their first lead of the game since early in the opening quarter on Macklin’s bucket and Heinrichs’ corner trey. Macklin’s second block of the night sailed out and the Bruins were awarded possession, leading to George’s go-ahead basket.
Marinenko was 2-for-2 from the line as the lead transferred back and forth but misses from the line on the Cougars’ next three attempts coupled with Lewis’ back-to-back threes had the Bruins back up by five.
Heinrichs cut the lead to two with her three freebies but Lewis responded with two on the other end of the court with a minute left. Macklin’s free throw with 32 seconds on the clock wrapped up the offense for both teams, leaving the Bruins on top by three points.
“I think we’re finding that we need to play with a sense of urgency,” Cougar coach Pat Winter said. “We had a good comeback but we left people wide open for threes and didn’t recognize that. We still haven’t prepared well enough. Still it is the first game … .”
Lewis had a game high 16 points and Beck put up 11 for the Bruins. George won the battle of the boards with nine rebounds. Heinrichs led the Cougars with 12 points and despite playing limited minutes while recovering from knee surgury, Reeder had seven.
“We played pretty well as a team tonight and got the open shots,” Lewis said, who acknowledged her strength is her ability to drain three-pointers. “I’ve been doing that ever since I can remember. Toward the end we really didn’t want to lose this game after leading for three quarters so we worked hard.”