AREA TEAMS INCLUDED: Jefferson, McCollum.
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When their game began Jan. 2, McCollum demonstrated its desire to pick up the thing that both itself and Jefferson lacked.
The Cowboys (2-16, 1-5) doubled the score on the Mustangs (4-17, 0-7) in the first quarter, snaring a 12-6 lead. McCollum built on that advantage until the fourth quarter, when it had to fend off a 17-point effort from Jefferson to win its first District 28-5A game, 46-39.
“They stepped up,” Jefferson coach Greg McWilliams said of McCollum. “They knew it was a big game for them and they responded well. They played with a lot of energy.”
McCollum established a 43-26 lead with 5:56 remaining when sophomore Elany Guerra nailed a three-point basket from the left wing off an assist from her sister, Emalye Guerra.
“It was very good,” first-year Cowboys coach Rudy Fernandez said of the win. “I’m very happy for the girls. They showed a lot of fight, and they kept fighting to the end. We tend to play in spurts.
“I try to play a lot of girls. They push each other and they played with a lot of energy today.”
Jefferson junior Victoria Morin (11 points) made a short jumper and Kasey Torres (10 points) sank a pair of free throws to close within 43-30. Elany Guerra (20 points) answered with another three-pointer, this time from the top of the key, to give the Cowboys the cushion they needed.
“Elany did a good job today,” Fernandez said. “She was making some big threes. She also played well off the ball on defense.”
The Mustangs’ Joslyn Avila (10 points) scored four consecutive points entering the game’s final minute. She nailed each free throw resulting from back-to-back steals in a trapping defense, helping Jefferson to reduce its deficit to 46-37.
“She is very deceptive,” McWilliams said. “Joslyn has quick hands.”
Jefferson senior Breanna Sifuentes closed the scoring with a long jumper. Ashley Campos contributed eight points for McCollum.
“Jefferson has a lot of size, compared to us,” Fernandez said. “We didn’t want them getting the offensive rebound and passing out. We tried to get the tempo going. They like to set up in a zone and try to create a lot of turnovers.”
Typical of the area’s Jan. 2 games, neither team was at full strength.
Jefferson was missing five players, including senior leader Angela Hardcastle. McCollum was without one starter and a key reserve.
“I thought we had a lot of kids step up and do good things today,” McWilliams said. “We had several key contributors. Joslyn was not feeling real good, but she played the whole 32 minutes. At one point in the fourth quarter, we were down 17. Even though things weren’t going our way, we kept pushing forward and that’s something the girls can be proud of.”
Area basketball fans may remember McWilliams from his very successful stint at Floresville, from 2000 to 2011. Jefferson hired him before the season after three years at San Angelo Central.
Although the Mustangs still are seeking their first district win, they have shown signs of growth throughout a season that began with few experienced players.
“We’re going to keep focusing and pushing forward,” he said. “I really like what we’re doing. These kids haven’t had a lot of wins, but we’re going to keep working until we get the breaks we need to turn things around.”