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Cougars go 3-0 last week, reach halfway point of league schedule with 6-1 record

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Gervais senior Isabel Vasquez scored six of her 10 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Cougars pull away from the visiting Braves on Friday at Gervais High School.PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Junior guard Araceli Vasquez led the Cougars with 18 points against Chemawa, one night removed from a 14-point outing in a victory over Western Christian.As they reach the halfway point of the league schedule, the Gervais girls basketball team is pretty much where they envisioned their best-case scenario heading into this season. Following a 62-35 home victory over the Chemawa Braves on Friday, the Cougars improved to 6-1 in the Tri-River Conference, a half-game behind the unbeaten Kennedy Trojans.

"We're definitely where we want to be," Gervais head coach Kyle Buse said. "We're looking forward to that Kennedy rematch at the end of the month. Just to kind of test ourselves and see where we're at."

Gervais (14-2, 6-1) was able to outlast a frisky Chemawa team (5-7, 2-4) coming off a stretch of three straight victories earlier in the week. Led by junior point guard Araceli Vasquez, who had a game-high 18 points, the Cougars built an early lead, then weathered several runs by the Braves before pulling away in the final quarter.

Gervais opened the contest with 11 straight points, before Chemawa responded with their first run of the game, cutting the deficit to 22-14 midway through the second quarter. Vasquez answered with a 7-0 run of her own — three buckets and an and-one — putting the Cougars ahead 29-14.

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Gervais junior Lilly Welburn scored six of her eight points in the opening quarter of play."When I start making shots, it gets my team up and that's when we start working together," Vasquez said.

After exiting to get some rest, fellow junior Marisol Ayala kept the run going, sinking a 3 near the Chemawa bench to end the half on a 10-point swing.

Following the break, Chemawa came out eager to cut down the lead. Senior guard Angel Jackson, who had been relatively silent in the first half, connected on four field goals in the third quarter to put pressure on Gervais to keep up.

The Cougars moved the ball around throughout the quarter, which saw five different players score at least one bucket, a microcosm of the team's success, Buse noted.

"I think almost everybody got a bucket tonight. That just shows that our assists were up and ball-movement was up," he said. "I'm glad to see that we worked for better shot selection today."

But Jackson alone couldn't keep the Braves in the game.

Leading 46-29 at the end of the third quarter, Gervais continued to push ahead. Senior Isabel Vasquez scored six of her 10 points in the quarter and the Cougars pulled away for a 27-point victory.

In addition to the Vasquez siblings, junior Lilly Welburn and freshman Izzy Boyd each scored eight.

Jackson, who is closing in on 1,000 career points, led the Braves with 17, including a pair of 3s.

The win concluded a stretch of three games in four nights for Gervais. The Cougars opened the week with a 47-18 win at Colton on Tuesday, then gutted out a 36-28 home game against Western Christian two nights later.

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Freshman guard Izzy Boyd came off the bench to score eight points for the Cougars."We didn't execute as much as we wanted to," Araceli Vasquez said.

The Cougars scored just three points in the first quarter against the Pioneers and trailed at halftime, but they rallied to claim a pivotal win to keep the team in contention for a conference title. The Cougars connected on just four field goals and shot 5-of-23 from 3-point range in the win.

"Making more 3s than 2s is a rare occasion," Buse said. "Luckily our free throws kept us in it." Gervais was 12-of-22 from the line, making more free throws than field goals. It was the type of game that Gervais had a hard time finishing last season. Almost a year earlier, the Pioneers came to Gervais and handed the Cougars a 45-36 upset.

"That just gives credit to Western, they know how to pull our defense out," said Buse, recalling last year's loss. "We're not losing games that we shouldn't be losing. We're beating teams that we're supposed to be taking care of.

"Yesterday that score didn't necessarily represent it, but we at least got the win. We're going to have some of those throughout the season. We've got to be happy with that."

Araceli Vasquez led the Cougars in that game as well, as the lone member of her team in double figures with 14 points.

No. 5 Gervais (14-2, 6-1) concludes its current home stand on Tuesday, Jan. 21 when they take on the Culver Bulldogs (2-11, 0-4) at 6 p.m. The Cougars then travel to Drain on Thursday, Jan. 23 to face the 1A No. 8 North Douglas Warriors (14-1, 4-0) — giving the team a tough opponent in preparation of the coming rematch against No. 4 Kennedy (12-3, 6-0 Skyline) on Friday, Jan. 31.

"This is where we wanted to be," Araceli Vasquez. "We wanted to get to that level of beating Kennedy. We'll get there when we play Kennedy, but yes, this is good."

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Freshman post Josie Schultz netted a pair of field goals — one of 10 Cougar players to notch at least a point on Friday.Gervais 62, Chemawa 35

Gervais 16 16 14 16 - 62

Chemawa 6 8 15 6 – 35

STATS

Points

Gervais — A. Vasquez 18, I. Vasquez 10, Welburn 8, Boyd 8, S. Contreras 5, Ayala 3, Schultz 2, Elizando 2, Perez 2,Hanson 2.

Chemawa — Jackson 17, Martinez 6, Nipwater 5, Cree Medicine 4, Bennett 2, Yellowhorse 1

3-pointers

Gervais — A. Vasquez 1, Ayala 1

Chemawa — Jackson 2, Nipwater 1

Free throws

Gervais — 2/5

Chemawa — 8/15


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