SHINGLE SPRINGS — The Ponderosa High girls basketball played its first preseason game at home Tuesday against rival El Dorado.
The Cougars’ domination over Ponderosa the past four years was a definite thorn in the Bruins’ paws coming in, but the bad memories were swept away as all three Ponderosa teams won. The Bruin varsity squad capped off the night with a 61-57 victory as point guard Olivia Nelson drained four clutch free throws in the final minute to keep El Dorado at bay.
After Nelson opened the varsity game with a three-pointer and later added Ponderosa’s next bucket, Cougar Sarah Mackey retaliated, taking the ball to the basket and drawing a foul. She made one-of-two from the line and a minute later teammate Samantha Reeder drained a three to give El Dorado the early lead.
From there on, neither team could take more than a two-point lead. Mid-quarter Ponderosa senior Bethany Farmer was fouled after her steal and breakaway for what became a catalyst for a number of turnovers and fouls from both teams. The game was stopped every 30 seconds for a player to go to the charity stripe. After a quarter of play the Lady Bruins held a 14-13 lead.
In the second period, Ali Ryan, who is ranked in the top 20 in the Sacramento area, stole the ball for a breakaway layup but Cougars Reeder and Mackey took charge and by the end of the first half, El Dorado was on top by six, 33-27.
After the halftime pep talks both teams played a more controlled and organized game. Bruin sophomore Ashley Beck tried to jump-start a Bruin rally with a three-pointer at the beginning of the half, but El Dorado retained its lead with pressure inside, rebounding and layups from inbound passes.
Heading into the fourth quarter, El Dorado extended its lead to nine points on Emily Boyd’s hook shot down low. But El Dorado fouls gave the Bruins an opening and Ryan and Nikki Johnson took advantage, both scoring from the line to cut the Cougars’ lead to 47-40 with 6:07 left. El Dorado scored again but with 5:38 left Beck got hot with two from beyond the arc.
After Mackey left the game with a leg cramp, Bruin Brooke Sinner was fouled and made both freebies to cut the Cougars’ lead to four. A minute later Ryan scored on a putback and then stole the ball in transition and took it in to tie it, 51-51, with 3:22 left.
Beck drained her fifth three of the game to put the Bruins up 57-54, forcing the Cougars to foul in hopes of regaining the advantage but it didn’t work.
The Bruins, behind Nelson, were solid at the line in the last minute and held on for the win. Overall, Nelson made 7-of-8 from the charity stripe.
“They made free-throws at the end that really made a difference,“ Ponderosa coach Noel O’Donnell said.
Ryan scored 25 points, had 11 rebounds and stole the ball seven times for her night’s work. Beck and Nelson (six steals) joined Ryan in double figures with 20 and 12 points, respectively.
The Ponderosa freshman team won the first game 37-21 and the junior varsity followed with a 38-31 victory.
Both teams are on the road for tournaments this weekend. The Bruins are competing at Christian Brothers while the Cougars are at Whitney. Both tournaments start Thursday and wrap up Saturday.