Tuesday’s opening round game in the Del Mar John Araujo Memorial Tournament for the Wilcox Chargers went down the final buzzer against the Woodside Wildcats. After blowing a 21-11 halftime lead to fall behind 31-29 in the fourth quarter, Wilcox regrouped to score seven of the game’s final 10 points down the stretch.
Three of those seven points came via clutch free throws from guard Ilaisa Dela Rosa. The senior drained two free throws with just over three minutes remaining to even the score at 31.
With Wilcox up 35-34, Dela Rosa and the Wilcox defense came up with a much needed stop. Dela Rosa gained possession and raced down to the offensive end where she was fouled prior to gathering for a layup attempt. The ensuing free throws were “one and one” where the shooter only gets the second shot if they make the first one.
At the time of the foul, there were 10.1 seconds left. Dela Rosa calmly nailed the first free throw but missed the second. Woodside hustled the ball up court and got two shots off before the buzzer, but neither would fall. Wilcox escaped with a Houdini-like win, 36-34.
“Ilaisa is great. We have a lot of confidence in her. She’s been with us since day one on varsity” remarked Chargers Head Coach Justin Fujihara. “There isn’t anything that she has not seen as a player. At this point in her basketball career, she knows these situations and how not to fold under pressure.”
“I just think back to practice since we take so many [free throws] at practice,” remarked Dela Rosa on how she remained calm to sink the clutch fourth-quarter free throws. “I take deep breaths because if I’m too tense then I’m not usually gonna make it. All the practice makes it feel like routine whenever I step on that line.”
While Dela Rosa’s free throws helped seal the deal, the majority of the offense for the Chargers in this one came from inside the paint. With the outside shots not falling, senior bigs Addy Munoz and Gielle Holubiczko dominated on the offensive glass. The first month of the season, the Chargers were without Holubiczko, and now they have two impressive centers that are healthy and ready to roll.
“It’s definitely a nice luxury to have,” chuckled coach Fujihara on having two strong bigs. “To have two players that can get in there and finish, grab rebounds, give you a lot of second chances and get stops as well. They are definitely a presence inside. It’s tough for teams to matchup if they don’t have two bigs.”
“Addy and I have played together since freshman year and it’s really fun to play with her,” chimed Holubiczko. “And since we’ve played together so long, it’s simple when we’re on the court. We both know what each other likes, so that’s really helpful. And when one of us is down, the other will pick the other up.”
“I love playing with her because we have been playing together all four years. I know what she looks for,” echoed Munoz. “I think the chemistry between us is really strong. I know when she wants a pass.”
The passing and rebounding were on point for the Chargers in this one, which they needed without the outside shots falling in. Wilcox improved to 3-5 overall with the win over Woodside. The team looks to be hitting its stride going into league, which starts Jan. 5.