The first day of the Gene Duffy Sr. Holiday Classic went almost as well as it could have for the Calistoga girls basketball program on Wednesday. The Wildcats completed the day with two clinical victories over North Hills Christian-Vallejo, 65-18, and Elsie Allen-Santa Rosa, 60-20.
The victories were the first two wins of the season for the young squad, as the Wildcats improved to 2-2 on the year. In game one, Calistoga opened with a 12-0 run, while North Hills Christian didn’t get on the board until through the opening quarter. The Eagles matched the Wildcats scoring for the remainder of the frame but the hosts entered the second with a 20-11 lead. The Eagles would only score seven points for the rest of the game.
Heading into the season it wasn’t clear who would take over the scoring hole left by graduated lead guard Gilda Rojas. After Wednesday, Lizbeth Escobedo may have grabbed that role with both hands. The junior guard finished the first game with a triple-double. Escobedo had as many points as North Hills Christian with 18, and she passed out 10 assists while adding 12 steals for the game.
“She does a lot for us and we run everything through her. She has the ball in her and she starts us. She has endless energy and she averaged about three points a game last year. We were on here all summer that she has to look and get her points,” Calistoga co-coach Ray Particelli said. “We had Gilda who averaged about 15 points and we certainly are going to miss her, but if everyone picks up a couple points we won’t miss her points.”
Calistoga picked up 34 steals as a team and the Eagles committed 41 turnovers for the contest. The Wildcats ballooned their lead to 33-14 at the halftime break.
“It feels pretty good to put up that stat line and it feels good to share it with my team, but I know I could have done better,” Escobedo said.
The smaller Calistoga squad outrebounded North Hills Christian by a margin of 41-27. Tully Leonard notched a bulk of the rebounds, as the sophomore center ended the game with nine points, 10 rebounds and five steals.
“We executed and we ran and we ran up and down the floor and we rebounded,” Particelli said. “We did a lot of stuff pretty well. So I am happy with their conditioning.”
Calistoga’s lead continued to grow in the third quarter, as the Wildcats had another 20-point frame. Hayseel Barrera did most of her damage in the first half, but the junior post player ended the game with 15 points and four rebounds. The Eagles continued to struggle from the field in the fourth quarter, with North Hills Christian only managing one point in the final quarter.
“I think we could have played better defense in the first half. In the beginning we were kind of lost and all over the place,” Escobedo said. “We knew we should have done better so by the second half we had talked to each other and knew what we had to do. Once we got up in the second half we were more communicative and we executed better.”
The second game of the day had the Wildcats seeing double, as Calistoga jumped out to a 13-0 run to start the contest. Calistoga breezed to a 60-20 victory over Elsie Allen and almost held the Lobos scoreless in the first quarter. Elsie Allen scored with less than one minute remaining in the quarter to the escape the frame with two points.
Once again Escobedo filled up the stat sheet. The junior guard ended game two with 10 point, 18 rebounds, nine steals and eight assists, just two assists and one steal away from a quadruple-double.
The Lobos had their best shooting quarter in the second, when they scored nine points. The Wildcats ran away with it after the first and scored 18 points before halftime. A major key for Calistoga was rebounding, as the hosts had a rebounding advantage of 39-12 for the game. Barrera led the way on the scoring front in game two, as the junior scored a game-high 15 points while pulling down two rebounds.
“All of these girls outside of Vanessa (Queipo) I don’t think anyone averaged more than four points last season,” Particelli said. “It was a point of emphasis this offseason that they all had to get more comfortable with their shots.”
Calistoga only allowed the Lobos to score six total points in the second half, while forcing Elsie Allen into 26 turnovers.
“That was a Division 2 school and it looks good on the resume,” Particelli said. “It's not about the score, it is about the execution. They weren’t very good, but we executed pretty well on both sides of the floor.”