Michelle Arellanes
San Marcos Michelle Arellanes drives for a score against Dos Pueblos Thursday night. Arellanes led all scorers with 17 points. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk Photo)

With a swarming, stifling defense, San Marcos rode a 21-2 run to finish the first half on the way to a 58-37 Channel League win at Dos Pueblos Thursday.

“Defense is our identity,” Royals coach Tiffany Simms said. “That’s what we live off of. I’m a defensive minded coach first, offensive second. So we work on defense all the time.”

That puts San Marcos at 2-0 in the delayed-start league season, while Dos Pueblos falls to 1-1.

San Marcos added a balanced scoring effort, with Junior Michelle Arellanes leading the way with 17 points. Junior Oceanna Bauer added 11, Ellie Monson nine and Ariel Plourde eight.

The Royals took the lead for good, 12-11, late in the first quarter on a shot by Monson, followed by a long layup by Plourde to end the quarter at 14-11.

The second quarter went 17-2 for San Marcos, as the defense created opportunities. That included a steal and layup by Arellanes to open the first double-digit lead at 23-13 with four minutes left in the half.

The Royals closed the half with back-to-back 3-pointers from Bauer and Plourde and a 2-pointer from Piper Nielsen for a 31-13 halftime lead.

Dos Pueblos opened the third quarter with baskets by junior Yvette Allen and senior Lily Mires to make the score 31-17.

Any hope of a comeback was stifled by Royal 3-pointers from Plourde and Arellanes, and a free throw by Arellanes to widen the lead to 37-27. The Royals opened their largest lead of the game, 46-22, on a 3-pointer from Monson with two minutes left in the quarter.

Altogether, San Marcos hit seven 3-pointers — two in the second quarter and five in the third. Arellanes scored nine points in the quarter, including three 3s, to help keep the win secure.

“That was when I definitely felt like the win was for sure,” Arellanes said. “I started feeling a little more comfortable, trusting that we were going to win.”

The Royals led 49-27 going into the final quarter.

“She’s been real consistent at the three point line,” Simms said of Arellanes. “She’s our backbone.”

Meanwhile, the Royals’ defense held the Chargers’ normally high-scoring senior Lily Mires to five points.

“They did a good job of collapsing on her,” Dos Pueblos coach Phil Sherman said. “I think we all got frustrated a little bit because we’ve been so reliant on her to carry us. We definitely gotta look for other people. Lia Papador was great tonight. And she was great the last game.

Sophomore Papador led the Chargers with 13 points.

“I think some of the sophomores came off the bench and played pretty well,” Sherman added. “We’ve just gotta improve, and the good thing is we’ve got a game Saturday” against Santa Barbara.

“They are never not inspired, that team,” Sherman said of San Marcos. “And we know that. We know that you’ve got to have supreme effort for 32 minutes against them. They’re capable of having a big run on you.”

After the win, Simms said “I feel real good about the season going forward. Our girls have been committed and dedicated since last year.

“We’re happy that we get a season, or we get a league. We’re just taking advantage of being able to play.

“I preach teamwork,” Simms said. “And I think now they’re starting to see when we play together as a team, we play better.”

San Marcos faces Cabrillo on Saturday at home, with the game starting at 1 p.m.

Noozhawk correspondent Dennis Moran can be reached at sports@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.