The magical start to the 2019-2020 season for Calistoga High’s varsity girls’ basketball team continued Saturday night.
Senior Vanesa Queipo’s three-pointer from the top of the key as time expired lifted the Wildcats to their eighth straight win to start the season, a thrilling 55-53 last-second victory over the San Rafael Bulldogs in the championship game of the annual Lady Saints’ Tournament at St. Helena High School.
“The moment I got the ball I looked at the clock because Coach Ray (Particelli) said ‘Don’t shoot unless (the clock) is under a number of seconds,’” Queipo explained, recalling her head coach’s message to the team during a timeout with 6.7 seconds remaining that set the stage for the game’s final play.
“So, I looked at the clock and saw three seconds and I was like, there is nothing to lose. We are division six. They are division two,” Queipo continued, “There is obviously nothing to lose and I just shot the ball.”
Queipo, who led three Wildcats (8-0) in double figures Saturday night with a game-high 21 points was mobbed by her teammates after the shot went in.
The euphoria following the victory continued in the locker room.
Particelli, in his third season on the Wildcats’ bench, praised his team for its poise and execution in the fourth quarter as they overcame deficits of 49-41 and 53-48 the latter with just 1:06 to play.
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While Queipo hit the game-winning shot, it was backcourt mate Lizbet Escobedo that was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. She scored 11 points and played a major role in the Wildcats’ undefeated weekend. Queipo was also named to the all-tournament team.
Escobedo acknowledged that this team’s maturation has been a process with the Wildcats’ starting lineup now in its third year together which coincided with Particelli’s arrival in 2017.
“This is an amazing win, because this is the second tournament we’ve won this season,” Escobedo said referring to the Duffy Tournament which the Wildcats captured for the first time in school history last weekend. Escobedo attributed the team’s resolve this season to the tough practices and conditioning over the past couple seasons.
Not to be forgotten was the contribution of Hayseel Barrera who joined Queipo, Escobedo in double figures with 16 points. Litzy Infante scored three points while Tully Leonard, and Angeli Aquino capped the Wildcats’ scoring with two points apiece.
The Wildcats led 14-10 after the first quarter but the Bulldogs outscored the Wildcats 13-9 in the second to knot the game at 23 at halftime. The two teams traded baskets in the third quarter with the Bulldogs holding a 37-36 advantage entering the game’s frenetic, final eight minutes.
Ryan O’Hagan scored a team-high 12 points for San Rafael in defeat.
To reach Saturday’s championship game, the Wildcats defeated Roseland University Prep, 48-31, and Rio Vista, 45-36, in round-robin play on Friday.
The Wildcats won’t play again until the weekend after Christmas, when they open tournament play of the prestigious West Coast Jamboree, which runs from Dec. 27-29.