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Desert Oasis girls shrug off slow start, win opener

It took two quarters for the kinks to be rubbed out of Desert Oasis’ lackluster start in the girls basketball season opener Wednesday night.

But once the jitters dissipated, coach Laurie Evans-Gygax liked what she saw.

Mikala Kirby scored 11 of her 15 points in the second half, and the Diamondbacks forced 11 third-quarter turnovers to take control en route to a 62-44 victory at Foothill.

“We started like it was the first game of the year,” said Evans-Gygax, laughing. “But we got after it in the second half and fixed some things defensively.”

Desert Oasis forced 23 turnovers in total and held the Falcons to a 27.1 shooting percentage. After a sloppy first half, in which they led only 29-23 at the break, the Diamondbacks (1-0) picked up their full-court pressure and intensity to start the third quarter.

It paid off, as Foothill struggled to advance the ball up court and get any open looks. Rae Burrell, who finished with a game-high 18 points, was limited to just one field goal and five points in the second half. Desert Oasis outscored the Falcons 21-10 in the quarter.

“That’s our game. And we had to get back to it,” Evans-Gygax said. “We focus on defense. We didn’t even talk about offense at halftime.”

Ahmaya Smith had 14 points, five rebounds and three steals, and Melissa Simmons added nine points for Desert Oasis, which got eight points apiece from Ashlynn Sharp and Brianna Clark.

Sharp, who was an all-state honorable mention last season, was nursing a sprained ankle and played limited minutes. But that allowed Evans-Gygax to get a good look at her bench.

“The nice part about the team this year is we’ve got 10 players,” Evans-Gygax said. “We can go the full length of the bench, and not a lot of teams can do that. That’s what I love about these girls. Any given night, somebody different is going to step up.”

For the first half on Wednesday, it was Simmons, who was making her varsity debut after sitting out last season because of a zone variance. She came off the bench to hit three first-half 3-pointers and added two steals to give Desert Oasis some much-needed energy and a lead it would not relinquish.

“For her first game as a varsity player, I’m so proud of her,” Evans-Gygax said. “She just stepped up. We had a conversation just the other day, ‘Your job is to shoot. If you’re open, you shoot the ball. That’s your role on the team. Start doing it.’ And that’s exactly what she did.”

Bri Rosales had 10 points and six rebounds for Foothill (1-1), and teammate Trinity Betoney added eight points and five boards.

Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at aferguson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0430. Follow @af_ferguson on Twitter.

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