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Sophomore Cruz leads Palo Verde girls to first win

Palo Verde girls basketball coach Phil Clarke knows he doesn’t have a superstar on his team, but he’s still waiting for one of his girls to break out and become a leader.

Brooklyn Cruz looks like she’s up for the task.

The sophomore led all scorers with 19 points, five rebounds and three steals as Palo Verde earned its first victory of the season Thursday by topping host Las Vegas 52-38.

Palo Verde went into halftime with a 26-13 lead, thanks in large part to another sophomore. Paulina Silcox scored nine of her 13 points in the first two quarters, including a layup at the halftime buzzer to give Palo Verde momentum heading into the second half.

“We’ve got a nice, young core,” Clarke said. “We’re learning how to win and get through all those little things. It’s nice being led by some sophomores.

“It’s nice to get that first win. They have been working hard, and yesterday was probably one of the better practices we’ve had. It’s definitely nice for them to get rewarded because they deserve it.”

After playing two top-five teams in Southern Nevada and three teams up north in the High Sierra Tournament, Palo Verde (1-5) came into Thursday’s game desperate for a win. Clarke said he’s happy the tough schedule is behind the Panthers, but still understands there’s work to do if he wants his team to reach the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year.

“We’ve had a tough schedule but that’s no excuse,” Clarke said. “It’s only going to help out in the long run. That’s the reason that we play those kind of teams. I liked our fight (tonight). We kept battling. That’s been the issue this season, is that we only fight in parts. That first win is always tough.”

Shaleea Butler finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds for Las Vegas, which shot just 10 of 44 from the field.

Despite her double-double, Palo Verde’s Clarke thought his team held her in check.

“I think we did a pretty good job on her,” Clarke said. “She got a lot from the line, but we didn’t give up many field goals to her. We kind of had our focus on a couple of girls, and we did a pretty good job on them.”

Butler scored seven of her points from the free-throw line, but Las Vegas (0-5) combined to shoot only 9-for-22 there as a team. Freshman Teconna Dyer added nine points and 13 rebounds for the Wildcats.
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