GBK: DP holds down Melgoza, but Dons still dominate

Amber Melgoza was held to her lowest scoring output in weeks, but her 24 points were more than Dos Pueblos scored, and it led Santa Barbara High to a 52-23 Channel League girls basketball win at J.R. Richards Gym on Thursday night,

After Melgoza buried a 3-pointer to start the game, Dos Pueblos ran two defenders at her almost every time she touched the ball in the front court. The junior still managed to knock down some tough fall-away jumpers and score layups off nice assists from her teammates.

“Everybody covered her but me,” DP coach Phil Sherman quipped.

Melgoza came into the game with a 35-point scoring average, and the Dons were averaging 65 points a game.

“We held them well under their average,” Sheman said. “The keys to beating them or at least staying with them is keep Melgoza down and don’t turn the ball over, so they can’t get shots in transition. Make them play half court because she’s kind of a one-man gang.”

The 24 points was Melgoza lowest scoring night since a 26-point performance against Carondolet in the Tournament of Champions back on Dec. 21.

While Dos Pueblos did a nice job defensively, it couldn’t muster much of an offense. A lot of that had to do with Santa Barbara’s press and half-court defense forcing turnovers.

“We couldn’t make shots and we couldn’t get shots. They got in our faces and we became extremely hesitant with the ball,” Sherman said. “We got defensive when we got the ball and you can’t win like that.”

Melgoza stole the ball, went coast-to-coast and pulled up a 12-foot jumper to give the Dons a lead they would never give up. Jada Howard followed with a free throw, Jocelin Petatan scored off a Melgoza assist and Howard cashed in an offensive rebound for a 7-0 run early in the game.

Freshman Amber Belletti responded with back-to-back baskets before Kimberly Gebhardt hit a 15-footer and dished off to Melgoza, giving the Dons a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Melgoza outscored DP 13-11 in the second quarter to help expand the lead to 35-18 by halftime.

Jada Howad scored 12 points for the Dons, Petatan grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out four assists and Melgoza grabbed 10 rebounds and added two assists.

“Our shooting percentage wasn’t horrible but it took us a while to get shots up,” Santa Barbara coach Andrew Butcher said of his team’s play on offense. “Our transition and fast break wasn’t good at all. We got to take advantage of our speed.”

Guard Camila Casanueva used her speed and quickness to create shots and scored 12 points, all in the first half, to lead the Chargers.

Santa Barbara’s Liliana Ponce played solid defense on Casanueva in the second half and held her scoreless.

“She had a good game defensively, she was solid,” Butcher said of Ponce. “We put her on their point guard because she really hurt us in the first half.”

Butcher lauded the play of Dos Pueblos.

“DP did a great job. They held Amber way down. They made her a passer, which she did a good job of at times,” he said. “They were really physical on her just cutting through the key and stuff, which is how you want to do it.”

Santa Barbara, ranked fourth in CIF-SS Division 2AA, improves to 17-3 and 2-0 in league while DP falls to 8-6, 0-2.