AREA TEAMS INCLUDED: Southside.
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As a senior leader, Mayra Sendejo knows what to do when Southside needs an infusion of energy.
“If anything, I want to take it (to the basket),” Sendejo said. “If I don’t have a shot, I’ll kick it out. I know they’re good shooters.”
Sendejo made a concerted effort to grab defensive rebounds during the second half Dec. 18 at Southside and dribble the length of the court to spur activity in her fellow Cardinals. When Sendejo wasn’t able to score or get to the foul line, she was able to find teammates Marcy Lopez and Allie Herrera open for three-point shots. Those are the shooters she referred to.
Her efforts helped Southside (11-7, 1-0) rally with a 9-2 spurt after Laredo Nixon (11-11, 0-1) pulled within five points in the District 29-5A opener for both teams. The Cardinals won 55-44.
“They hit some big shots,” Laredo Nixon coach LeaAnn Mendoza said. “We lost composure.”
Sendejo led the Cardinals with 13 points, scoring seven in the second half. Herrera scored 11 points. Lopez and sophomore Klarissa Quintana each finished with 10.
“Mayra is our heartbeat,” Southside coach Jessica Macias-Cardenas said. “In the third quarter, every time we were kind of crumbling, she was communicating and getting us to focus. She does anything and everything for us.”
Southside hadn’t played since Dec. 8 when it absorbed a 65-21 loss to Taft, which is No. 4 in the Express-News area rankings.
The Cardinals led 22-17 at halftime behind nine points from Quintana. They expanded the lead to 10 little more than three minutes into the second half when post Cassandra Aguilar corralled an offensive rebound and passed to Herrera for a three-pointer.
“Cassandra came up with about eight blocks,” Macias-Cardenas said. “She was our defensive player of the year last year. Without her on the court, we’re a different team.”
The Mustangs, who finished third in 29-5A last year, received five quick points from Jenny Pena (18 points) to spark an 11-4 run. The tipping point for Southside was a four-point possession with 6:11 remaining.
Sendejo made a free throw for a 40-34 lead. She missed the second foul shot, but Southside’s Adrianna Escamilla was in place for the rebound and passed to Lopez. The sophomore was fouled on a three-point attempt and made each free throw. Quintana followed with a three-point basket.
Lopez has replaced fellow sophomore Desirae Arocha. Arocha was Southside’s leading scorer last year, when the Cardinals were the 29-5A runner-up, but is lost for the season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
“She’s stepped up a lot, coming from the JV,” Sendejo said. “She takes some of the pressure off without Desi.”
With 31.2 seconds left, Lopez sealed the win with two more free throws.
“Nixon’s always tough,” Sendejo said. “It’s a huge start. We can get on top of the district, so that’s always good.”