Just when it appeared that the Sierra Pacific High girls were on their way to a Central Section Division IV championship Saturday morning (March 3) at Selland Arena, San Joaquín Memorial freshman Samaria Velázquez showed up to steal the show.
Although the 5-foot-7 guard missed all six shots and two free throws she took, her value was spotlighted in the decisive third quarter when Memorial erased a 20-15 halftime deficit with a 20-8 scoring spree.
“At halftime, it was just let us stay close in the game,” said Velázquez, who came up with a team-high four steals. “If we can keep it close, then we can push the ball.”
Velázquez said the 58-51 win over Sierra Pacific of Hanford was a total team effort.
“I’m just glad that I could help,” said Velázquez.
The missed free throws, she added, “was a fluke. I usually do pretty well.”
Those missed shots were forgotten after Memorial, now 22-5, erased an early 20-10 deficit and scored the final five points of the first half to go into the locker room trailing 25-20.
Symya Murray, who scored 14 points, tied the game at 31-31 with 3:36 left in the third quarter.
Teammate Sarah Garrett then created mayhem under the basket by wrestling two offensive rebounds and scoring. By that point, Memorial had a 38-31 advantage.
Garrett grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds.
The closest that Sierra Pacific could get after that was three points (54-51 with 2:12 left in the game.
Memorial’s Jada Shakoor scored 14 points.
Sierra Pacific, now 27-5, was led by Alana Roberts’ 15 points, and Celeste Lewis’ 14 points. Lewis also had a game-high five steals.
Velázquez enrolled at Memorial because she wanted to “play alongside my friends.”
Now, she has a section championship and hopes for more.
“I’m so excited for the next several years to see what they bring us,” said Velázquez, who also plays volleyball.
Memorial won the boys Division II title Friday night.