Apparently the word has spread through the Central California Conference: If you can stop Jessica Silva, you have a shot of upsetting the Buhach Colony High girls basketball team.
For the second straight game, the Thunder saw a box-and-one defense. This time it was Atwater's Alexis Bautista shadowing Silva all over the court. The strategy helped hold Silva to just five points.
This time, however, her teammates delivered as Allison Wisdom (19 points), Brandy Coward (16 points) and Barbara Coward (13 points) led the Thunder to a 62-43 victory over the Falcons on Tuesday night at the Thunder Dome.
"It feels good that we don't have to rely on one or two people to score," Coward said. "When we have other people help out it takes the pressure of Jessica."
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The Falcons (3-2 CCC, 7-14 overall) came out inspired. It helped that Atwater was hitting shots from all over the floor as it jumped out to a 25-14 lead with 2:21 left in the first half.
Mayra Mora (13 points) knocked down a pair of 3-pointers for the Falcons and Natalie Govea (12 points) was scoring baskets in the paint.
"Atwater was absolutely prepared to play us," Buhach Colony coach Shane Gentry said. "They came out with a lot of energy.
"It helped that we made a nice run right before the half. We talked at halftime about being more patient, using more ball fakes and moving the ball around."
The tide turned late in the second quarter when Buhach Colony (5-0, 17-5) closed out the first half with an 8-0 run to cut the 11-point deficit to 25-22 at the half despite turning the ball over 16 times.
Silva drained her only 3-pointer of the night to help ignite the spark.
The shots Atwater was making in the first half stopped falling in during the second half as Buhach Colony's pressure slowly wore the Falcons down.
Wisdom scored 13 points in the second half. Brandy Coward scored 14 second-half points, including 10 in the fourth quarter to help the Thunder pull away.
"The biggest thing for us was the turnovers," Atwater coach J.R. Davis said. "You've got to protect the ball against a team like that.
"The game plan was to shut down Silva and we did a good job of that. We just kept turning the ball over. Brandy got us tonight."
The win gives the Thunder a two-game lead atop the CCC with just five games remaining.
Buhach Colony showed itself it can get it done when teams want to take Silva out of the equation.
"We're a different team when we're finishing shots like that," Gentry said. "Barbara was big for us in the first half and Brandy was great in the second half.
"When they're doing that Jessica doesn't have to have those amazing games she was having."
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.