Two things prevented El Dorado from Monday’s championship trophy at the 17th Jan Vitell Memorial Tournament — Oakmont hit nine three-pointers and the Vikings hurt the Lady Cougars one too many times on the weak side.
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Other than that, El Dorado’s 59-47 setback for second place to close the preseason wasn’t that bad as the girls are more than ready to begin Sierra Valley Conference play.
“I think we’ve come a long way this season and are working a lot better together than in the past,” said Cougar Jessica Jemmott who had a solid, active game on the backboard. “We’ll do way better in league than last year.”
After a slow opening quarter Monday that produced just free throws — five by All Tournament pick Hannah Dixon, two by Jemmott — the Cougars trailed the Vikings 18-7 going to the second.
Over halfway in, El Dorado turned to its trapping pressure defense to climb back to within 27-21 at the break, a regret Cougar coach Pat Winter talked about afterward.
“That was my mistake, we should have applied pressure from the start because once we did they (Oakmont) were running scared, stopped attacking and worked backward,” Winter said.
In the quarter, El Dorado received a boost off its bench from freshman Kayla Cotten who scored eight points. Overall, Cotten had 14 to lead the Cougars while El Dorado’s other All Tournament selection, Kylie Haverson, added nine points, all in the second half, Dixon had eight and Faith Wilson chipped in with seven.
Though the Cougar press did bother the Vikes in the second half, the Roseville-area team did respond in the third quarter with 21 points, including four, threes. El Dorado’s failure to cover the weak side was equally damaging in granting Oakmont nearly a dozen points.
“You have to admit they (Vikings) shot it well and I thought their size hurt us a bit,” Winter said. “We preach boxing out on the weak side but we just let too many people get behind us.”
The Cougars played hard to the end with 14 fourth-quarter points. Patten hit a three, Haverson and Wilson each made multiple free throws, Dixon hit a basket and free throw and Jemmott and Samantha Klinkenborg added buckets.
“Our effort was good … we just came up short,” Winter said. “We had contributions from everyone. This team continues to over-achieve and I couldn’t be happier where we are going into league.”
The Vitell MVP was Oakmont’s Emilee Gavia. Vikings Olivia Francis and Kendra Barnhard made All Tournament.
El Dorado’s JV was also second.
Cougar alumni sightings: Sarah Mackey. Cora Harms, Kelsey Hartshorn, Grace Abela, Emily Boyd, Samantha Reeder, Jessica Heinrichs, Alyssa Atkinson, Teryn O’Brien and Cougar coaches Traelynn Lewis and Jill Oswald.