In a showdown of the top-two teams in the De Anza League, the Wilcox Chargers came up on the losing end Friday night. Wilcox had a difficult time containing Palo Alto Vikings’ guard Annika Shah. The sophomore finished with a game-high 30 points, leading her squad to a 52-46 victory.
While credit certainly goes to the Vikings, who improved to 5-0 in league and 13-2 overall, the Chargers (14-4, 4-2) suffered some rather unfortunate bad luck. Late in the first quarter, Wilcox guard Maison Yee, one of the team’s top outside shooters, suffered an injury to her elbow while attempting to box out a much bigger Vikings opponent. Furthermore, after a 9-2 run late in the second quarter pulled Wilcox back within six points at 29-23, the Chargers’ fouled Shah on a one-handed, half-court heave at the buzzer. Shah would make all three free throws.
“That’s very tough to have that happen,” said Wilcox Head Coach Justin Fujihara on the end of the first half. “But it’s really hard to tell a team that you have to play perfect and not make any mistakes.”
Indications are that Yee, who did not return to the game, won’t be out of the lineup long. Coach Fujihara didn’t give off the impression that the injury was of the serious variety.
Yee’s absence against Palo Alto, senior captains Anna Neeley and Elise Corwin were forced to carry the load offensively. Fortunately for Wilcox fans, the duo managed to do exactly that down the stretch. Despite trailing the Vikings by 13 going into the fourth quarter, Wilcox got back in the game, pulling to within as close as three points with just over four minutes remaining.
“We definitely found our touch in the fourth quarter, we were driving to the bucket more, being more aggressive and our recognition on defense got better,” chimed Corwin after the game. “One player killed us the rest of the game. It all starts on defense.”
“We did refocus and started getting back on the same page with what our game plan was which was good,” echoed coach Fujihara. “We did battle back and gave ourselves an opportunity to be in a position to win.”
In the end it was too little too late for the Chargers, but Neeley’s tremendous performance, essentially willing her team back into the game was quite impressive — scoring 22 points is no easy feat.
“She’s a senior now and it’s what you expect your senior guard to do,” remarked coach Fujihara. “Definitely showed how she’s capable of putting the team on her back.”
“She’s really talented in that way,” add Corwin on Neeley’s ability to take the game in her hands and produce offense. “She’s confident, she knows her spots and she could do it all by herself sometimes, but we need to find a way to help her out a bit more.”
Wilcox will have to chew on this loss for a full week before their next matchup when they take on Saratoga on Friday, Jan. 25.