GALT — Many Liberty Ranch girls basketball players were offensive spark plugs.

Raina Saldivar came on strong on offense for the Galt squad.

But in the end, Liberty Ranch posted a 49-26 win over Galt in a Sierra Valley Conference game at Warrior Gym on Wednesday. This was the first meeting between the two rivals in conference play; Galt will play at Liberty Ranch on Friday, Jan. 25.

Forward Courtney Six nailed three 3-pointers for Liberty Ranch (1-1 in the SVC, 9-9) in the early minutes of the first quarter. That led to the Hawks taking a 22-7 lead over Galt (0-2 in the SVC, 9-10). Blend her shooting touch with the Hawks’ defenses that was mostly a 2-3 set but at times changed to a half-court that forced the Warriors into many turnovers.

“We like the zone defense,” said Liberty Ranch interim head coach Sean Duryee. “The girls practice it a lot. Forces a lot of turnovers for us. Try to mix it up a little to keep our opponents guessing.”

In addition to turnovers, Galt was unable to generate extra touches on the basketball in terms of offensive rebounds. That is because the Hawks’ front court players of Six, Nicole Schwedhelm and Olivia Klotz were too busy pulling down boards, then shifting the ball into the hands of Nelson, a senior guard.

“I respect their game,” said Galt coach Angela DaPrato of Liberty Ranch. “We had a triangle today. We had some people playing man, went to a 2-3 and a 3-2. We were trying different combinations to give Liberty some problems. But it is a problem when Liberty has an inside and outside shooters.”

Liberty Ranch’s offense, however, came to almost a stand-still in the second quarter. The Hawks had missed shots, if not committed turnovers thanks to Galt’s defense. That gave some hope to the Warriors in terms of trying to cut their rival’s lead, but Liberty Ranch enjoyed a 27-11 halftime lead.

Saldivar, a sophomore who had been out with an injury for three weeks, was a scoring machine for Galt in the third quarter. She was responsible for the Warriors’ first seven points that led to a 33-18 score; she scored 10 of her game-high 17 points during that time. Saldivar, a shooting guard, was moved to point guard when Hannah Aguirre recently went down with an injury.

“Raina, typically, gets into double-digits,” DaPrato said. “Not only does she come back after being out for three weeks, then she had to play point guard. I have a lot of confidence in her (Saldivar) about her abilities to take it to the hole, about her abilities about shooting it.”

But the Hawks received scoring from Olivia Nelson (game-high 12 points), plus Tori Azevedo (10 points) and center Ashley Kirbyson in the same quarter to maintain their lead, which was 37-22 entering the final quarter.

“We wanted to work on just playing together as a team,” Duryee said. “Come out strong, give different looks for different people. Encourage them to take the open shots, trying to build their confidence as we move deeper into the season.”

Both teams entered Wednesday’s game hovering at .500 records. Each coach feel that their teams can still play their games after each dealing with a share of injured players and illnesses going back to December.

“I think our record doesn’t reflect how hard the girls have played,” said Duryee, whose Hawks have lost four of their last five games by six or less points.

Nelson, who had a team-high 12 points, scored half of her points in the fourth quarter. Behind her and Azevedo in scoring for Liberty Ranch was Six with nine points, which were all her 3-pointers. Giovanna Parino had five points, Klotz and Kirbyson four each and Schwedhelm three.

Next to Saldivar in scoring for Galt was Haley Sanchez with six points. Warrior forwards Jessica McAllister and Kaya Weaver played roles in moving the ball inside the paint and either took shots or kicked it out to Saldivar, Julia Baffa and Madison Petersen.

Liberty Ranch continues conference action against Rosemont of Sacramento at The Hawks Nest on Friday. Galt will play at defending SVC champion Union Mine, also on Friday.

Contact Mike Bush at mikeb@lodinews.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.

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