Photos by Lance Winter
Lady Rattlers fall to Cedar Ridge in first round of playoffs, 57-47
DRIPPING SPRINGS — All San Marcos wanted was a chance.
Last year, San Marcos’ underclassmen only contributed 11 points in the team’s 42-37 first-round playoff loss to Vista Ridge, with no juniors scoring until the 1:32 mark of the second quarter.
Despite falling 57-47 to Cedar Ridge in their return to the UIL playoffs on Tuesday at Dripping Springs, head coach Jermaine Ervin noted a real difference between how his seniors handled the loss to a season ago.
“You gotta realize, Chelsea (Williams), Dede (Pierson), Angelina (Sotelo) and Vivian (Hernandez) didn’t score anything in that playoff game last year and they knew that,” Ervin said. “I told them that when I got the job and now they’re my high scorers. Yeah, I think last year had a lot to do with it, the way they attacked this.
“That girl over there, Angelina Sotelo, she ain’t scared of nothing and nobody. And if you’re in a fight, she’s running to it. She ain’t running away from nothing. And Dede is the most talented young lady I’ve had the privilege of being around.”
San Marcos (23-11, 9-5) and Cedar Ridge (23-10, 11-3) met two other times earlier in the season, splitting the first two meetings. It’s a rarity for two teams outside of the same district to play each other twice but these two teams played their most important matchup on Tuesday night.
“I didn’t want to do it,” Ervin said. “We knew where they were in the district over there. I was a little nervous about it because they won the first one. We made adjustments to beat them in the second one. They were gonna make adjustments and so I thought we were good with the adjustments. They’re a one (seed), we’re a four (seed). We had them on the ropes. We had them. When you get to the playoffs, one (seed), four (seed) it doesn’t matter to me. You gotta beat the best to be the best.”
The Lady Rattlers started the opening quarter fired up and their energy transferred directly into jumpers, especially from beyond the arc. Pierson stepped into a shot beyond the arc to get things started. Senior guard Angelina Sotelo scored 3-pointers next on consecutive possessions to give San Marcos an 11-7 lead. Sotelo had eight first-quarter points which were more than her total in the previous year’s playoff matchup.
However, the hot shooting for the No. 4-seeded Rattlers wore off early in the next quarter. Pierson repeated her first quarter actions with the first trey at the start of the period but from then on San Marcos’ offense went cold. A three-minute scoreless stretch allowed its opponent to get going. A 12-0 run by Cedar Ridge pushed the team ahead 26-21 but San Marcos junior forward Reagan Harris stalled the run with a corner 3. That took the Lady Raiders into the half with a 26-24 lead.
After playing a team three times, you pick up a few things about them. And playing the No. 1 seed from the bi-district is even better. The familiarity gave The Lady Rattlers some confidence heading into the next half.
“We knew everything about them. Nothing shocked us, nothing scared us,” Ervin said. “I felt like they let (No.) 21 get away with a few things that she didn’t need help with. And I think that some balls just rolled the wrong way for us. We were right there.”
Junior forward A’Miya Moore hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key — San Marcos’ sixth of the game — which gave the purple and white a 27-26 lead — the sixth lead change of the game. That’s when the senior experience paid off the most. After a 3 by Cedar Ridge, Sotelo and Hernandez dished the ball to junior forward Saylor Upshaw for easy layups. Pierson added a 5-0 scoring run by herself to take a 42-28 lead with 1:12 in the third.
Pierson was hit hard on her drive, made the bucket, but no foul was called. She hobbled out of the game with cramps in her calves. Ervin felt like it was the turning point of the game.
“It was a crucial point when she went down,” Ervin said. “She just gets a bucket, no call on the play. It’s just tough, because we played about three, four minutes where I would say we played without her and that’s when they built their lead.”
After another lead change to start the final quarter, the Lady Raiders mimicked the Rattlers’ shooting with a 3 of their own. Senior Lexi Alexander took advantage of her size down low, scoring back-to-back times down the court. The Raiders held a 49-44 lead with 5:06 remaining in the game. Pierson did return to the floor and was immediately fouled driving to the basket but was unable to make either of her two free throw attempts. The Raiders used that to get in transition and hit yet another 3.
The seniors for San Marcos weren’t done fighting when Sotelo dished the ball to Williams, who found Hernandez slashing to the rim for an and-one. The comeback was stalled by consistent free throw shooting and time management by Cedar Ridge, bringing an end to San Marcos’ season.
Although they fell short in the first round in each of the last two seasons, they won 23 games — the most since the 2014-15 season. The Lady Rattlers have four seniors graduating — all four of them starters — and will have to depend on the youth and experience of their younger players if they want to make a playoff push next season in a new district.
“I love the seniors but they’re gone now,” Ervin said. “That’s the culture they built. So A’miya Moore, Ezra Tobias, Saylor Upshaw, Marli Myers and Bailey Guzman, they’re gonna set our culture and it’s gonna be a culture of grit, hard-nosed basketball, skilled basketball and discipline. That’s gonna be our cornerstone, is the discipline we play with, and that we play for each other. We’re going to channel that energy that we have in the game and how we root for each other and we’re gonna fuse that all for next year. That’s what it’s gonna be.”