Defense serving as strength for Placer girls

By: Nick Pecoraro
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No matter what your preseason looked like, it’s always a clean slate when league play begins.

Not that the Placer girls basketball team has had a bad pre-league record – the Lady Hillmen went 10-7 and were the No. 4-ranked team by Maxpreps in Sac-Joaquin Section Division III – but it’s always nice to get that first league win out of the way.

Wednesday, Placer opened up Foothill Valley League play with a 54-48 win over Nevada Union inside a noisy Earl Crabbe Gymnasium thanks to the Placer band. But it wasn’t all roses for the Lady Hillmen in the first half.

The Lady Hillmen were down by 11 at halftime, only able to muster up 13 first-half points. But head coach Tony Camillucci said that his team’s hustle and effort on the defensive end of the court, where most of the box score glory gets overlooked, was the equalizer in the second half.

Behind scrappy defensive play from Michelle Chamberlin, Emily Youngblood and Kylie Garten, Placer out-worked the Lady Miners to a tune of 41-24 in the second half, including a 24-9 fourth-quarter flip for a six-point win in the Lady Hillmen’s FVL opener.

“Our defense is what keeps us in games,” said Camillucci on the key to Placer’s recent wins. “We’ve struggled a bit scoring, but defensively if we can keep teams from scoring, it gives us a chance.”

Placer’s leading scorer Tyra Al Mujadidi scored all 13 of her team-high point total in the second half. Delaney Keddie chipped in nine while Chamberlin and Garten each had seven.

“It was a good win for us,” said Camillucci. “We’ve gotta get those wins at home. We were down 11 at halftime, but we kept our composure.”

Placer followed with a 51-16 Friday night win against Rio Linda behind 10 points from Chamberlin and nine from Al Mujadidi.

With league play underway, Camillucci knows that his team will have to be prepared every single night.

“Never take anybody lightly,” he said. “Lincoln has the best record in league, and with all their seniors that were on varsity as freshmen, they have the most varsity experience. But it’s league time and everybody’s playing their best by now.”

Up next for Placer (12-7, 2-0) is a road game at Oakmont Wednesday and a home tilt Friday against Ponderosa.