About halfway through the third quarter the Santa Clara Bruins found themselves trailing the Mountain View Spartans 37-22. At that point, Bruins Head Coach Deedee Kiyota switched up the tactics, going into a high-press defense. The move helped spark a 14-0 run, pulling Santa Clara within just a single point at 37-36. Mountain View put an end to the 14-0 run with a bucket in the final seconds and the third quarter would end 39-36. During the impressive stretch to get back into the game, Bruins’ senior forward Dejah Swanson had three steals in a span of less than two minutes.
“That’s normal for Dejah,” noted coach Kiyota on Swanson’s third quarter thievery sequence. “She is quick and covers the floor really well laterally. She’s a great rebounder for us, tonight was more of the same, that’s Dejah.”
In the fourth quarter, the Bruins kept hanging around, never trailing by more than six, often pulling back within four and then three points at the very end. Down 49-43, senior Yvonne Delgado hit an uber-clutch three pointer. At that point the Bruins needed either a steal or had to foul. Eventually, they committed enough fouls to get into the penalty and force an and-one free throw opportunity. With 8.6 seconds left, the Spartans’ center missed her free throw. The Bruins’ Kayleigh Watanabe got the rebound and quickly sprinted up court. Watanabe would feed a final pass to Delgado for one last three-point attempt at the buzzer, but it was no good.
“Definitely not how we wanted it to end,” remarked Watanabe. “There’s just simple things we need to execute better on, bad passes and turnovers, not boxing out, especially being outsized.”
Santa Clara was without the services of six-foot-one inch freshman forward Maia Garcia. Her absence was tough with Mountain View having two key players over six-feet, including a six-foot-three inch center.
Watanabe and Delgado are the two remaining Bruins starters from last year’s team which went undefeated in the preseason and regular season (24-0). In Tuesday’s league-season opener both Watanabe and Delgado looked sharp as they did last year. Gone from last year’s starting lineup were three graduating seniors. Twin sisters Devyn and Taylor Snyder and Katherine Knowles are all now in college. While Swanson, Yvonne’s twin sister Yvette Delgado, Bianca Gutierrez and sisters Bonnie and Annie Liu are all helping fill the void, those are six huge shoes to fill. Knowles was Santa Clara’s leading rebounder last season. Boxing out for rebounds was the biggest problem area on Tuesday.
“Just gotta box out, simple as that,” said Watanabe. “It’s a simple thing, simple part of the game. It’s what we need to improve upon, but sometimes we still have defensive lapses. Definitely something we need to work on.”
The Bruins (0-1) will look to even up their record when they open up their home schedule on Friday against Cupertino.