Justine Katz of Dos Pueblos
Justine Katz of Dos Pueblos drives past Natasha Stapf (55) and between Oceanna Bauer (25) and Natasha Bender of San Marcos during Saturday's Channel League crosstown game. Katz scored 17 points. Credit: Lily Chubb / Noozhawk photo

Trailing since the first quarter, the Dos Pueblos girls basketball team got clutch performances down the stretch and beat crosstown rival San Marcos, 65-60, in a wild, foul-filled Channel League game on Saturday afternoon at Sovine Gym.

Junior forward Justine Katz rose to the occasion in crunch time, scoring 11 of her game-high 17 points in the final quarter. She had a sequence where she contributed to 10 Charger points to give her team its first lead of the game (54-52) and helped extend it to 60-55 with 1:45 left.

Katz drove to hoop to knot the game at 52 and then stole the ball and scored to put DP ahead 54-52 with 2:53 to go.

After Natasha Stapf buried a corner three-pointer to put San Marcos back in front, 55-54, Katz fed Carly Letendre, who buried a three for a 57-55 advantage. Katz followed that with an and-1 layup for a five-point lead.

“I think once you get one big play, you get energy off of that,” said Katz of her series of big plays. “It just builds up and you get momentum and it’s hard to stop it, so you just keep scoring and keep making plays and keep building confidence.”

Lauren Robles of Dos Pueblos shoots over San Marcos' Mariia Shtykova
Lauren Robles of Dos Pueblos shots over San Marcos’ Mariia Shtykova. Robles scored 15 points in the Chargers’ 65-60 win. Credit: Lily Chubb / Noozhawk photo

Dos Pueblos coach Manny Murillo was excited to see Katz take over the game.

“She’s a matchup nightmare,” he said. “She’s athletic, she can shoot the ball, she can drive the ball, she can pass the ball. And it’s hard for teams to match up with it. You put a big on her, she’ll go by them; you put a little guard on her, she uses her body and gets to the rim. She played excellent tonight. They all did.

“We had a lot of smart plays down the stretch where in the past we wouldn’t make the smartest play. I thought we stayed composed down the stretch.”

Despite being down by seven (62-55) with less than 50 seconds left, San Marcos was confident it could come back.

Michelle Arellanes, who sat out most of the second half with four fouls, buried a three-pointer to cut DP’s lead to four with 38 seconds left.

Katz drew a foul and made both of her free throws (she was 5-of-5 in the fourth quarter and 9-10 for the game from the line) to put the Chargers ahead, 64-58.

“We were still in the game even down by six because we know we’re quick on the shot,” said San Marcos coach Tiffany Simms. 

Arellanes struck again for the Royals, scoring off a pass from Mia Martinez-Tomatis and getting fouled. She missed the free throw, leaving the score 64-60.

“We were still in the game then,” said Simms.

Lauren Robles made the first of two free throw and the Chargers got the rebound on the miss with 16 seconds left. But San Marcos didn’t foul and time ran out.

“We were supposed to foul but the people that were close to the ball had four fouls, so they decided not to and then the people that didn’t have any fouls forgot. It just became one of those things,” said Simms.

There were 42 fouls called in the game, 22 against San Marcos and 20 for Dos Pueblos. Only one player fouled out and she was from DP.

“The refs called the game and we have to play through it and work through adversity and persevere,” said Simms. “This was the first instance that my girls were in that position. And I think it’s going to teach them a lot about how to adjust and make  game-time adjustments when you’re in foul trouble.”

In addition to starters being in foul trouble, the Royals suffered a blow when playmaking guard Ellie Munson took an inadvertent elbow to the head in the first quarter and didn’t play for the rest of the game.

“When you hustle and give 100% on the floor, sometimes those things happen,” said Simms of the unfortunate injury. “It’s a hustle injury.”

Mariia Shtykova led San Marcos with 15 points, Stapf scored 12, Carly Nielsen had 9 and Arellanes added eight.

DP’s performance on Saturday was a big turnaround from its first meeting at San Marcos, where the Chargers struggled to make outside shots and lost, 48-39.

Four Chargers scored in double figures in the rematch, led by Katz’s 17 points. Robles and Gianna Nichols each scored 15 points and Letendre had 12 points.

Carly Letendre of Dos Pueblos is guarded by Carly Nielsen of San Marcos
Dos Pueblos guard Carly Letendre tries to dribble around a masked Carly Nielsen of San Marcos. Credit: Lily Chubb / Noozhawk photo

The Chargers stayed within striking distance of San Marcos until they took the lead in the fourth quarter.

“We were confident, and we all just really wanted to win today,” said Katz. “I think we carried that on the court and we got the win.”

Murillo, who dedicated the win to his 1-year-old son Jaxon Dre, said he noticed a difference in the heart, energy, effort and body language of his players on Saturday. “The things that don’t show up in the stat sheet. Moving on from one play to the next, where we say, ‘Next play, that’s one thing we’ve struggled with.”

He praised the tremendous effort of the San Marcos players.

“They played hard and kept fighting like they always do. I have nothing but love and respect for those kids,” he said.

Dos Pueblos improves to 5-4 in the Channel League and 10-12 overall. San Marcos, which suffered its second straight league loss, is 4-4 and 9-8.

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Barry Punzal, Sports Editor

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at bpunzal@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.