GALT — Olivia Nelson’s four 3-pointers weren’t enough to help Liberty Ranch hold off the one-two punch of Union Mine’s Carley Zaragoza and Alli McDonald.
The Diamondbacks, led by their two front-court players, posted a 64-35 win over Liberty Ranch in a Sierra Valley Conference contest at The Hawks Nest on Wednesday.
After Nelson canned her first 3-pointer with 3:48 left in the first quarter, Liberty Ranch (2-2 in the SVC, 10-10) cut into Union Mine’s score at 10-3. Yes, the Diamondbacks jumped out to a 10-0 lead. That was largely due to Zaragoza, along with McDonald, who was the SVC’s MVP last year, and teammates Zoie Boren, Kyla Denault and Mayci Ball were having a ball in forcing the Hawks into turnovers near their own basket or midcourt.
By the time the opening quarter ended, Union Mine (3-1 in the SVC, 11-7) had established a 16-5 advantage. But Liberty Ranch went with its outside shooting game in hopes of spreading out the Diamondbacks’ full- and half-court defenses. The Hawks’ plan worked — briefly — as Nelson canned another 3-pointer, plus a basket from sophomore guard Jada Hightower.
“On offense, we talked about just spreading them out and seeing if we could open them up a little bit,” said Liberty Ranch interim head coach Sean Duryee of his team’s discussion in between the first and second quarters. “Obviously, they have the size on us; the two powerhouses inside. We knew we weren’t going to win the inside game on them.”
Union Mine continued to muscle its way inside the paint behind Zaragoza and McDonald. The duo combined for 18 points — McDonald had 10 — in the quarter that led to a 24-10 lead at the halfway point and 34-16 at halftime.
“This is a tough team,” said Union Mine coach Scott Gilliland of Liberty Ranch. “I’m really proud of how we responded in the first quarter.”
Liberty Ranch had a burst of energy to start the third quarter, leaning more with the outside shooting. But the Diamondbacks were able to key on Nelson, forcing other Hawk players to take shots at the basket in Tori Azevedo and forwards Olivia Klotz and Kloey Calkins. The Hawks finished with nine points in the quarter, as Union Mine sat nicely on a 49-25 lead entering the final quarter.
“We had a couple of runs; wish we could’ve kept them a little longer,” Duryee said. “Our whole focus was trying to limit their shots. They’re good; they a disciplined team. They move the ball around well; they’re patient. You never see them forcing the shot.”
Nelson finished with a team-high 16 points for the Hawks — half of the team’s final points. Azevedo had eight points, with five coming in the second half. Liberty Ranch forward Ashley Kirbyson had three points and Klotz, along with guard Briley Jordet, Hightower and Calkins had two points each.
“I’m proud of the girls,” said Duryee of his Hawks. “They kept their head high. We’ve been plagued with injuries this whole season. We’re trying to get healthy and beat these powerhouse teams.”
Zaragoza had 29 points for the Diamondbacks, and McDonald finished with 23.
Liberty Ranch continues conference play Friday at Bradshaw Christian of Elk Grove. Union Mine will host Rosemont of Sacramento, also on Friday.
Contact Mike Bush at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.