Girls' CCS basketball: Pajaro Valley's record-setting season ends in second round

Pajaro Valley senior point guard Jayleen Solorzano (5) pressures Saratoga sophomore guard Jane Loo (10) during Saturday's CCS D-III game in Saratoga. — Tony Nunez/Register-Pajaronian

SARATOGA — Deer, meet headlights.

Headlights, meet deer.

The Pajaro Valley girls' basketball team had seen its fair share of tall, fast and well-coached teams during its record-setting season, but the Saratoga Falcons were all that and more.

“They had athletes everywhere,” said Pajaro Valley senior point guard Jayleen Solorzano. 

No. 5 Saratoga had athletes at every position, and, seemingly, in every crack and crevice of its home court, too.

Using a stifling full-court man-to-man trapping defense, the Falcons put the clamps on the upstart Grizzlies in a 62-38 win in the second round of the Central Coast Section Division III playoffs on Saturday.

Saratoga (14-11) forced unseeded Pajaro Valley (21-5) into 28 turnovers, 11 of which came in the Falcons’ third-quarter blitzkrieg. They outscored the Grizzlies 17-7 in the third period to head into the final stanza up 21.

“I thought my team did a very good job today,” said Saratoga coach Dan Wallace. “They played hard, and they gave me everything they had.”

The Grizzlies, too, gave it their best effort, but the Falcons’ suffocating length and speed never allowed them to get into the offensive flow they showcased during their undefeated run to the Pacific Coast Athletic League Santa Lucia division title, the program’s first-ever league championship.

Solorzano, who led the state in points per game this season, poured in a game-high 21 points, but everyone else struggled to find their shot against the frantic Falcons.

“[Solorzano] she’s an amazing player,” Wallace said. “We knew about her, so we wanted to stick a man on her and force the rest of their team to try to beat us tonight.” 

The Falcons finished fifth in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza division, but did so without point guard Jane Loo in the lineup. The 5-foot-7 sophomore was playing in her fifth game back from injury, but showed no signs of rust. She finished with 13 points, five rebounds, seven assists and three steals.

Junior wing Anika Prasad paced Saratoga with 17 points, and six other Falcons besides Loo and Prasad scored.

“Jane is a great player, but the team has been working hard, too,” Wallace said. “A team is a team, one player doesn’t make everything, but we’re happy to have her back.”

Saratoga will travel to play No. 4 Mills in Tuesday’s quarterfinal round.

The Grizzlies, who stunned No. 12 Hillsdale, 56-39, the night before to earn their second-round matchup, end their season with a long list of accomplishments, including the program records for wins in a single season (21), most points in a single game (73) and longest winning streak (13).

“For the most part, we accomplished all of our goals,” Solorzano said. “If you told me that we would’ve been 21-5 at the end of this season, I would not have believed it.”

Solorzano, who plans to play hoops in college, accomplished plenty as an individual, too. She this winter set the program record for most points in a single season (742) and career points (roughly 1,200). Second-year head coach Lupe Quintero believes Solorzano also has the program records for career steals and rebounds despite being only 5-foot-2. 

Solorzano said she hopes another young girl from Watsonville will lock herself in the school’s gym like she did, and shatter all of her records in the near future.

“I’ll be happy (if that happens),” Solorzano said. “I think P.V. has set it standards too low in the past. I want the next teams to be better than us.”

Pajaro Valley’s senior forward Diana Lopez added eight points and six rebounds, and junior wing Alexandra Romero pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds while also dishing four assists.

Lopez and Romero’s effort on the boards helped Pajaro Valley make things interesting near the end of the first half, but the Falcons blew the game open over the first eight minutes of the second half.

The Grizzlies will say goodbye to five seniors, including four starters: Solorzano, Lopez, Judith Celestino, Michelle Ibarra and April Pedroza.

“I’m proud of the girls no matter what,” Quintero said. “I’m proud of them. They killed it this year.”

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