When Fallon Hill talks, her teammates listen.
Hill, the only returning starter from last year's Lodi Flames varsity girls basketball team, led the young Flames to a 57-30 season-opening victory against the Manteca Buffaloes on Tuesday at Lodi High School.
"They look at me as the leader," Hill said.
The senior small forward was clearly the most dominant player on the floor, amassing a game-high 15 points, including three 3-pointers. She had 11 points by halftime as the Flames built a 28-11 lead.
"She's really quiet, but the girls look to her for leadership. They respect her," Lodi coach Rod Woznick said. "I told her the team will go as far as she wants it to."
While Hill, who is the only senior on the squad, is clearly the go-to player on the team, the Flames got major contributions from two newcomers Tuesday.
Freshman center Lauren Doucette gave Lodi a formidable presence inside, scoring 13 points, grabbing three rebounds, dishing out two assists and blocking one shot.
Fellow freshman Dani "DJ" Johnson had a nice game at point guard, hitting for eight points and constantly breaking down the Buffaloes' defense with her penetration.
"I was really impressed with the freshmen," Woznick said. "You usually don't bring freshman players up, but they proved that they belong tonight."
Woznick also noted that the Flames are a much deeper team than in previous years.
"I didn't have any hesitation when I looked down the bench," he said.
Behind seven points from Hill, Lodi jumped out to a 13-2 lead midway through the opening quarter.
Katie Raymond scored two of her 12 points to give the Flames a 10-point cushion after one. Raymond led Lodi with five boards.
The Flames' defense was smothering in the second period, holding Manteca without a field goal as the Buffaloes managed only four free throws in the quarter.
Lodi scored the first nine points of the period to take a commanding 26-11 lead at halftime.
Manteca's Katie May, who led the Buffaloes with 12 points and five rebounds, scored midway through the third period to end the long field goal drought, but it only cut the Lodi lead to 15.
The Flames answered with a 16-4 spurt to close the period and put the game out of reach. Nicole Duke scored three points for the Flames and Dani Vallero, Gina Turner and Amanda Mendez each had two.
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