A Brilliant Season for the Vaqueras Ends in Heartbreak

Jonathan Jimenez, Cactus Contributor

After winning fifteen of their last sixteen games, the #1 seed Vaqueras looked to have a deep playoff run, but instead met with disappointment after being eliminated on Friday night. After a first round bye, the team faced the #2 seed Eastern Arizona College (also coming off of a tremendous season) in the Region 1 Championship. Unfortunately, the outcome of the game was never in question as Eastern came out of the gates hot, refusing to surrender the lead.

The first quarter was an ominous introduction to the rest of the game. Eastern won the quarter scoring 31 points compared to CAC’s miniscule 8 point quarter. The Vaqueras’ early turnover troubles led to easy baskets in transition for Eastern. Once Eastern was able to get into their half-court sets; poor defense allowed them to have more easy baskets and free throws. The only offense that CAC was able to produce during this quarter came from the few defensive mishaps by Eastern; poor shooting meant that most of their made field goals came right at the basket.

These struggles continued through the second quarter and made it difficult for the Vaqueras to find any sort of consistent scoring as they ended the half down 22-51. They attempted to feed their post players, but most of their entry passes were stolen away and turned into easy layups for the opposition. Tania Pierre-Emile played a huge part in Eastern’s lock-down defense; as she clogged up the paint, Emile either blocked shots or altered them into much more difficult shots. She collected three blocks during the evening to go along with her 18 points and 9 rebounds.

The Vaqueras began the second half on a high note as they were able to force a shot clock violation that eventually turned into a made 3 point shot by Brijanee Moore (3-9 from deep on the night). Though they went on a small offensive run, led by Moore (who finished with 21 points 5 rebounds and 4 assists), they failed to cut into the large deficit as they put up too many threes to no avail and ended the quarter trailing 46-69. A key contributor in the quarter for Eastern was the 6 foot Malou Thiebaut de Kergret, who provided some 3 point shooting of her own knocking down both of her 3 point attempts and also running the floor for easy layup opportunities.

The final quarter featured more fast-paced offense by Eastern and poor execution by CAC. Eastern’s Akia Frett was the catalyst for their offense all night as she pushed the ball up the floor at every opportunity, creating easy opportunities for her teammates in the process. She tallied 18 points and 11 assists for the night as Eastern cruised to victory. CAC made one final push in the late stages of the game but failed to bring the deficit any lower than the 18 point margin by which the game ended (66-84). To make matters worse for CAC, their scoring leader Moore was unable to finish the game due to what appeared to be cramping although the game’s outcome had been decided.

Ultimately, turnovers and sloppy execution diminished any chance that the Vaqueras had against the blistering offense on display by Eastern. Still, the Vaqueras had an admirable season and have a team with the potential to compete at a high level in the near future. Hopefully, they are able to use the disappointment of this tough loss and manifest it into motivation for years to come.