Brooke Aberle and Veronica Alejandrez got their jobs done for Lodi.
Mia Misasi had the hot hand shooting for Tokay.
But Aberle, Alejandrez and Lodi had a quicker start over Misasi and Tokay. That led to Lodi posting a 70-47 win over Tokay in a Tri-City Athletic League girls basketball game at The Inferno on Thursday. Their meeting concluded the first round of league play.
Lodi (3-2 in the TCAL, 11-10) held a slim 12-8 lead after the first quarter. But Aberle (team-high 18 points) and Alejandrez, who had 10 of the Flames’ 36 rebounds, ignited the Flames’ defense with their play. Aberle was responsible for creating turnovers and steals that were reflected in the statistics; she had two of her three steals in the quarter and two blocked shots.
Lodi guard Marissa Fabian (16 points, nine rebounds) and forward Ellie Van Tassel, who also had five rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots, were also factors on defense. The Flames forced 15 steals.
“We were mentally ready for the rivalry game before it started,” Aberle said. “We really wanted to come out strong. We tried out full-court, face guard man-to-man defense. I really feel that it threw Tokay off and made them feel pressured.”
The Flames’ upstart on defense generated more touches on offense. That included Aberle scoring nine points, plus assistance from Fabian and Aiyana Evans scoring five points each in the quarter. That led to Lodi sitting on a 35-18 halftime lead.
“Defensively, we were trying to do something a little bit different; little bit more pressure, little bit more full-court,” said Lodi coach Brandon Shea of pressuring Tokay to shooting the basketball earlier. “Just working on try to anticipate; having hands active on passes and deflections. Defensively, we did a good job there.”
But Tokay (0-5 in the TCAL, 5-15) came out of the starting gate running in the third quarter. In the first two minutes, Misasi (19 points) hit two 3-pointers — the second one coming after a Lodi turnover — as she dribbled, stopped and aimed her shot from behind the 3-point line. Then the Flames, who started the quarter with a 1-3-1 zone defense that opened up Misasi to taking her outside shots, lead to 35-24.
“The first quarter, she had some shots that were basically in and out,” said Tokay coach Shanel Mischal. “Once they got into that 1-3-1, we were able to swing the ball and get her the open shot. Our girls are pretty descent shooters from the outside.”
Aberle added, “Mia was getting hot, but we knew that if we pushed the ball up the court and made our shots, we could keep the momentum on our side.”
Then Aberle knocked down a 3-pointer, plus two free throws made by guard Calista Morita that expanded the Flames’ lead to 40-24. An Aberle steal led to an uncontested shot, upping the score to 42-24.
“She hit her first couple of shots,” said Shea of Aberle. “It was one of those games that once we got going in the right direction, we got going. We’re just trying to move the ball and attack their zone, attack the inside of the zone against the 3s.”
Tokay continued to battle its way in the game behind Misasi, plus guards Mira Patino, Simone Medeiros and forwards Madison Gonzales and Aniyah Dean on the court most of the third quarter. But Lodi increased its advantage to 56-38 entering the fourth quarter.
Both Shea and Mischal cleared their respective benches to start the fourth quarter. Halfway through that time, both coaches mixed each of their starters in with the players who were on the court.
In the first quarter, Tokay was guilty of turnovers; giving up the basketball near its end of the basket or half-court. That led to Lodi jumping out to a 10-0 lead.
“We had too many turnovers,” Mischal said. “I want to say that in the first half, we had 16, 17 turnovers, which is way too many turnovers. Half of those were unforced turnovers.”
Behind Aberle and Fabian in scoring for the Flames was Van Tassel with nine points, guard Ashley Vasquez seven, Evans and forward Patricia Coffaro six each, Alejandrez four and Morita and guard Rachel Avellar two each.
Dean and Medeiros scored 10 points each for the Tigers. Alanna Stoops followed with four points and Gonzales and guard Jackie Enciso two each.
Lodi starts the second half of TCAL action at Tracy next Tuesday.
Tokay returns to league play on Monday, Jan. 28 at Modesto Christian.
Contact Mike Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.