Los Banos girls seal playoff berth with win over Central Valley

Los Banos High’s girls basketball team survived a determined Central Valley team in a 49-45 victory on Wednesday, clinching the third Western Athletic Conference playoff spot in the process.

The Tigers and Hawks kept the whistles busy, combining for 35 fouls and 55 free throws attemped between them against 30 field goals made (15 each). Los Banos guard Jacquelin Arretche led the Tigers in scoring with 19 points, while Tamara Uti equaled her scoring for Central Valley while also bringing down 19 rebounds.

“The streak stays alive, and I’m good to go,” Los Banos coach Danny Crosby said, referring to a decade-plus stretch of playoff appearances he started at Le Grand before moving to Los Banos five years ago. “Two tough games. We had to play two tough games at home. We’ll take a day off tomorrow.”

Crosby cost Los Banos the lead with 2:27 remaining in the game when he earned a technical foul after his center, Evelyn Johnson, fouled out. Uti hit three of the four free throws to tie the score at 40. Los Banos forward Savannah Pena got the lead back with a three-point play on a putback and foul.

“The girls did a good job. They kept their composure after the technical, which was good,” Crosby said. “Like I told them, sometimes you have to do that to change the officials’ mindset.”

Johnson earned herself a double-double before she left, though, with 11 points and 13 boards – with nine of those points and six rebounds coming in the first quarter.

Central Valley closed the deficit to 47-45 on a Melissa Afortunado bucket off the baseline with about 20 seconds remaining. LB’s inbounds pass went long, and guard Keiloni Smith fell on the ball but slid out of bounds, giving CV another shot with 14 seconds remaining. A three-point attempt bounced off the rim, and CV’s Mia Lorenzo got the offensive rebound, but traveled on her way to the basket.

“We fought hard back at our place, and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy coming in here,” Hawks coach Jesse Padilla said. “So just like over at our place it went down to the end, same thing tonight, it went down to the end. We got them over there, they got us over here.”

A CV foul put the ball in LB guard Nicole Marchese’s hands for two free throws, which she sank to ice the game.

“Two big points. She’s still struggling a little bit with her thumb, but she made some big free throws, and we needed them,” Crosby said. “They were huge free throws. With six seconds left, we definitely needed that.”