Whenever the Live Oak and Sobrato girls basketball teams play, things are bound to be frenzied, chaotic, physical and action-packed. Just as important, the players’ competitiveness extends to great sportsmanship on the court, making this crosstown rivalry one of the best in the South County area.
“Our games can be a little messy at times, but nonetheless entertaining,” Bulldogs coach Erica Wallace said.
Tuesday’s Blossom Valley League Santa Teresa East Division game was as good as advertised, with Sobrato pulling away at the end for a 60-50 victory. Violet Asuncion and Brianna Bouton—both freshmen—scored 14 points apiece and sophomore Makayla Heffernan had 12 for the Bulldogs, who improved to 2-2.
The Bulldogs never trailed after taking the lead in the final two minutes of the second quarter, but a feisty and determined Live Oak squad threatened to overtake them at the end. The Acorns turned a 10-point deficit and got to within 51-48 when freshman Maya Rafat hit a leaner in close with just over 3 minutes left in the game.
But Sobrato answered as Jaci Bolton—another freshman—scored on a putback. After the Acorns failed to score on the ensuing possession, Heffernan banked in a 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down that gave Sobrato some breathing room, 56-48, with 1:55 left.
“Makayla was playing with four fouls and had just come back into the game,” Wallace said. “She fouled out right after that, so obviously that was a huge shot we needed.”
Acorns wing Aleah Rafat scored a game-high 21 points and fellow senior Raegan Kirk had 16. Rafat hit shots from inside and outside, rebounded the ball strong and added in some blocks for good measure. Kirk is a four-year varsity player and perhaps one of the program’s all-time stalwarts.
Tough defensively and aggressive in driving to the basket, Kirk’s 16 free throw attempts was three more than the entire Sobrato team combined. She also had several steals to spur the Acorns’ defense.
Live Oak utilized three-quarter pressure defense with success, forcing Sobrato into 26 turnovers. However, that was negated because Sobrato scored 20-plus fast-break points. The Bulldogs did manage to break the Acorns’ press on occasion; however, it was their outlet passes to players streaking to the basket off a missed shot or loose ball that led to the majority of their fast-break points.
“Everyday we’re working on fastbreak stuff in practice,” Wallace said. “This is the game where it all clicked. We rebounded, opened up, looked up the court and we were able to sync the layups. We had people running the lanes and we were finally able to transition our drills into the game. It was really great to see.”
The youth movement has already begun for Sobrato, which portends well for the future. In addition to Asuncion, Bouton and Heffernan, the team has two other freshmen and two other sophomores on the roster. Bouton scored the majority of her 14 points via the fast break, utilizing her court awareness and speed to get past the Live Oak defense. two of her fast-break points came on a layup to beat the halftime buzzer. Asuncion has tremendous range and hit two shots from a couple of feet beyond the 3-point line.
Live Oak is young as well, with three freshmen and two sophomores on the roster. Maya Rafat had six points in Tuesday’s game, and fellow freshman Isabella Pinula earned the start at one of the guard positions. Sophomore Emma Ghione, junior Kashari Gravenberg and senior Naomi Zamudio came off the bench and combined for seven points. Senior Ayra Gomez has also been a sparkplug for the team in the last couple of years.
Ten different players took shots for Sobrato, including junior Oliva Tapia, senior Trezure Tu’ua, sophomore Layla Elderkin and freshman post Bolton (eight points). The quartet combined for 20 points and were key for Sobrato in the win.
Juniors Emma Emata and Alexis Galindo along with freshman Alexis Tapia provide solid depth as reserve players. Wallace loves the fact that this is her youngest team ever. In her nine years as Sobrato’s coach, she has never had so many freshmen and sophomores playing prominent roles.
“We’re having fun and I’m sure (Mike) Kiefer at Live Oak feels the same way,” she said. “They’re amazing kids. You still have those freshmen woes where they do silly things, but I’m shaping them now and next year is going to be super fun and competitive. … This was a really fun game. They’re intense because all of the girls are childhood friends, and they’ve known each other since elementary school, which makes for a great environment.”