The winning didn’t come easy this basketball season for junior Samantha Rico, whose junior varsity team went 24-0.
“I was used to winning,” said the Chowchilla High School forward who scored six points and grabbed eight rebounds in Friday’s 49-41 Central Section Division V championship game at Selland Arena.
Chowchilla went 17-12 with the win, and helped Rico erase the trials and tribulations of a 2-8 record in the North Sequoia League.
“It’s a tough league,” said a happy head coach Don Smith. “It prepared us for the playoffs. There are a lot of Division 2 and Division 3 teams there.”
Chowchilla got off to a slow start, missing six of its first eight free throws in the opening quarter and trailed 11-7.
“Nerves,” said Smith, who watched his team battle to take a 25-23 halftime lead.
Firebaugh’s top scorer, junior Mirayha Gonzales sat out most of the game with foul trouble and finished with 11 points. She had averaged 17.2 points going into the game.
“She doesn’t just lead us in scoring, but leads us in spirit,” said Firebaugh coach Betty Carmona.
Chowchilla ran up double-digit leads in the fourth quarter and eased into its fifth straight win.
Alison Cargill, a senior forward, scored 13 points to pace Chowchilla.
Rico did her part when Cargill got into foul trouble.
“Sam played big in the third quarter,” said Smith. “The players played their roles.”
Smith used 10 players in the game.
Rico said the strategy was to keep the game close and not to panic if Firebaugh went on scoring streaks.
“Now, we have to really buckle up and work hard,” said Rico.
League play at the varsity level, said Rico, was difficult to adjust to. Four of her teammates also played on the junior varsity team last season.
“It was definitely different,” said said. “We had to work harder and work together.”
Firebaugh, which finished its season with a school-record 22-9 mark, should be proud of its season, said Carmona.
“This loss does not define our season,” said Carmona. “We were co-champions in league, and this is our best record.
Carmona has several key juniors who will return next season.
“We want to come back strong next year,” she said.