Thursday night's Trans-Valley League clash with Hilmar and Hughson High girls basketball teams proved to be an exciting and defensive contest.
Hilmar was coming in just one game behind Mountain House, but after the night concluded, and the Yellowjackets ousted the Hughson Huskies 35-22, they put themselves right back into contention for the TVL title.
"We definitely did not shoot our best tonight. We were on our tippy toes and Hughson really stepped up and played some tough defense tonight," said Hilmar head coach Don Inman. "They weren't giving us any easy looks."
No easy looks could be an understatement.
Hilmar and Hughson battled in a tough, physical game that didn't see much scoring in the first half.
In fact, after the first 13 minutes of action, both teams had a combined score of just 13 points with Hilmar leading 9-4.
The ‘Jackets then extended the lead at the half to 16-12 after Flores scored seven of the team's final nine points in the first half.
"In the first half we didn't allow much scoring but I think our defense was a little sloppy and we weren't boxing out as much," said Inman. "We were getting a few three pointers, but overall it was a win so that is good."
Struggling to find points, Hilmar looked to their top two scorers in Hailey Chavez and Elizabeth Flores to become the catalysts of the game - and they were.
"I think sometimes we tend to go with the speed of the other team, we never go our full potential," said Flores. "Sometimes when we get a tough team we push each other, and when we get a team with a struggling record, we go down to their level but we need to get out of that habit."
Chavez and Flores took over along with center Erin Benning , who was also a big asset in the paint, blocking and rebounding nearly everything in her vicinity.
Hilmar came out on fire in the second half, and outscored Hughson 19-10 in the process.
Flores ended the night with a game-high 23 points, essentially outscoring the entire Hughson team for the game. Chavez finished with seven points.
"I think we won because we've been practicing really hard and we put in the time and effort into practice and the games," said Chavez. "Just having the mentality that we can win every game. Every game we play is the most important."
Hilmar is now tied with Mountain House for first place in the TVL at 6-1 apiece.
Hilmar sweeps Hughson in the regular season after toppling the Huskies, 56-27, back on Jan. 3. In that game, Flores ended the night with 14 points while Chavez added 16.
"Last year we were so young and barely lost to Ripon and also Mountain House so I knew our potential was here, we just had to put it together," Inman added. "I told our kids that we are in the hunt for the league title. The TVL this year, it's whatever team comes out ready to play will win that game. We got lucky tonight, since we didn't play our best and still won."