Vega sparks Lady Senators to OT win |

Vega sparks Lady Senators to OT win

Joe Santoro

  RENO ” Brandi Vega certainly doesn’t mind a little pressure.

  “No, not at all,” the Carson Senators’ senior point guard said with a smile. “That’s the part of the game I love. When the pressure is on I feel real comfortable with the ball in my hands.”

  Vega had the ball in her hands for much of Friday night’s 56-49 overtime victory over the Galena Grizzlies, scoring a game-high 26 points. The victory was the fifth in a row for the surging Senators, who improved to 14-12 overall and 8-4 in the Sierra League. Galena fell to 19-6 and 10-2.

  “As Brandi goes, we go,” Senators coach Todd Ackerman said. “She’s our best ball handler. She’s so quick and hard to defend. Once in a while she’ll do something and you’ll say to yourself, ‘Please, don’t.’ But for the most part she did a great job. We wanted her with the ball in her hands.”

  Vega scored 16 of Carson’s 22 points in the fourth quarter and the four-minute overtime combined. The only other Senators to score in the game’s final 12 minutes were Kailey Taylor, Gina Bianchi and Blaike King, who each had a basket.

  “She’s a wonderful player,” Galena coach Karen Friel said of Vega. “The last time we played them she really didn’t hurt us much. But tonight she was much more aggressive and she attacked the basket a lot more.”

  Vega had very few “please, don’t” moments against the Grizzlies, especially with the game on the line. The point guard almost single-handedly wiped out a 41-34 Galena lead after three quarters, scoring 10 of Carson’s 12 points in the fourth quarter to force overtime.

  Vega got to the rim for a short jumper to cut Galena’s lead to 43-40 with 6:25 to play and she came right back with a steal and a lay up to pull the Senators to within 43-42 with 4:42 to go. Vega then drained a 3-pointer with 2:26 to play, pulling the Senators even (45-45) with the Grizzlies for the first time since the game was tied (22-22) 90 seconds into the third quarter. Vega also gave the Senators a 46-45 lead with a free throw with a minute to play. It was Carson’s first lead since the Senators led 20-18 at halftime.

  Galena, though, tied the game at 46-46 on a free throw by Emily Burns with 51 seconds to play, setting the stage for some possible Vega heroics. Ackerman had Vega hold the ball at midcourt before calling a timeout with 18 seconds to go.

  “They weren’t going to come out and guard her so we just had her wait with the ball,” Ackerman.

  After the timeout Vega saw an opening in the Galena defense with eight seconds to play. She drove the lane, pulled up about five feet in front of the basket and missed.

  “I almost got a lucky bounce,” she smiled.

  The overtime came down to Vega attacking the rim and going to the free throw line. She hit her final six free throws to complement important buckets by Bianchi and King as the Senators dominated the overtime. Bianchi’s jumper gave the Senators a 48-46 lead with 2:46 to play and King put back an offensive rebound of a missed Vega free throw for a 50-46 lead with 1:53 to go.

  The Senators’ defense also deserves credit for the upset. Carson held Galena to just eight points over the fourth quarter and the overtime combined after Galena scored 23 points in the third quarter alone. “We just could never find a rhythm offensively,” Friel said. “They put a lot of pressure on us.”

  “This was a great win for us,” Ackerman said. “The girls just battled and battled.”

  Vega, who was all smiles after the game, capped a big week for herself with the victory over Galena. On Wednesday she signed a National Letter of Intent to play soccer at Washington State.

  “It’s been a good week,” she said. “Yeah, I’d say so. Real good.”