The Centennial girls basketball squad used a stingy trap defense to keep La Joya out of the point and make work to find the open shooter.
Led by senior point guard Megan Webb and senior forward Kelsey Ramstad, the Coyotes traps forced La Joya to settle for low-percentage jump shots. However, those high-risk, long-range jumpers fell as the game wore on.
And those same shots didn't fall for Centennial (3-7, 0-1), which dropped its 5A-II Desert West opener, 43-38 at home Tuesday night.
"We just missed too many shots on the offensive side," said Centennial coach Matt Visintainer.
Junior guard Tiffany Key had a chance to take the lead with 50 seconds to play and La Joya holding a 39-38 lead. After the Lobos' Janelle Wilson missed a pair of free throws, Coyote forward Kelley Mallon grabbed the rebound and got the ball out to Webb. The Centennial point guard found Key open along the right wing, who took the open 3-shot but the ball fell short.
Webb fouled on the next possession and Brittney Blakes nailed both free throws to take a three-point lead with 44 seconds remaining. Centennial brought the ball up quickly and drove the baseline where Ramstad was pushed out of bounds. The in-bound pass went to Key who fired another shot - long. The Lobos nabbed the rebound and fired a baseball pass to Wilson who laid in the basket with 26 seconds left on the clock.
That was enough for the Lobos (4-6, 1-0) and too much for Centennial.
"We scrapped and fought defensively but missed some assignments late in our trap rotations," Visintainer said. "That allowed them to find the open player and hit the shot. After they did that a few times I think it took us out of our game a little."
The Lobos' 6-foot, 3-inch senior My-chal Duncan hit a short jumper inside the paint to halt a 8-0 Centennial run, helped by a Key 3-pointer capped by Mallon's basket off a Key steal with 4:32 remaining. Duncan's shot cut the lead to 28-21.
A minute later, La Joya junior Breeana Burton hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to make it a 4-point Coyote lead.
Hitting shots from behind the ark was the Lobos' key in the victory as they made two more in the fourth quarter to claim the lead for good. Visintainer said that was the game plan - to force La Joya out of the paint and shoot from the outside.
"They have a little more size than us, so the idea was for them to shoot from the outside. I think we did that pretty well, it just happened that they made those shots."
Up 10-7 after the first quarter, the Lobos answered quickly in the second as junior Marina Casas and Wilson hit back-to-back threes to take a 13-10 lead. However, Centennial fought back as junior forward Sharnae Street got around a defender under the post and laid in a bucket.
Then, with a little more than two minutes remaining the half, Webb slapped the ball away from Blakes and drove the length of the court of an open lay up to reclaim the lead. The Coyotes would go into halftime with an 18-15 lead.
Blakes paced all scorers with 15 points, and three 3-pointers, while Casas matched her fellow Lobos' 3-point mark and added 9 points. Key led the Coyotes with 11 points and Ramstad finished with 10.
Centennial's next matchup will be at Westview (6-2, 1-0) Jan. 20.