Dons stun Buena with an amazing comeback

Santa Barbara girls basketball coach Andrew Butcher has said there are times when his team can be really good and really bad.

Playing at Buena, a place where the Dons rarely win, the good outweighed the bad Tuesday night as they pulled off a stunning 54-45 victory in their Channel League opener.

“It was crazy,” said Butcher in amazement.

It certainly was.

The Dons started out committing nine turnovers before attempting their first shot and fell behind 30-13.

It was 30-18 at halftime, but Santa Barbara came out of the locker room as a different team in the second half. It protected the basketball, spread the scoring and outscored the Bulldogs 19-3.

“If we’re hitting shots, we start playing good defense and we get energy,” said Butcher.

The Dons held Buena’s top player Keani Albanez to five points. She averages over 20.

Ivette Gil was assigned to guard Albanez, but Butcher said it was a team effort to contain her.

“Everyone was helping. We were all aware of her,” he said. “Before the game, I was saying, ‘How the heck are we going to guard her.’ Everyone was really ready to help.

“There were a lot of heroes tonight,” he added.

Gil led the Dons with 14 points on 8-of-11 shooting and committed only two turnovers against Buena’s pressing defense. The Dons cut their turnovers from 18 in the first half to just seven in the second half.

Tess Emerson, who was battling the flu, added 13 points, 11 in the second half, and Desirea Coleman added 10 points.

Riley Lloyd grabbed nine rebounds and made three clutch baskets in the fourth quarter with the shot clock winding down and hands in her face, said Butcher. She also had four steals and two assists.

The win was Santa Barbara’s first at Buena since 2002 and only the third in Butcher’s 28 years of coaching the Dons.

Santa Barbara (12-5, 1-0) is home Thursday against San Marcos. At that game, the school is retiring the jersey of Holly Ford, a two-time CIF Player of the Year and Parade All-American who went on to start four years at USC. She is the mother of Tess Emerson.