Soquel senior Ragine Graves scored 27 points for the lady Knights on Friday as they dropped Santa Cruz 57-46 to clinch the league title on Santa Cruz’s home floor.
“It always feels good to beat Santa Cruz because they’re our rivals,” said Graves who led all scorers and helped Soquel win a game which they led the from the first quarter on.
Santa Cruz got off to a slow start, scoring only nine points in the first quarter to Soquel’s 15 and had to play catch-up the rest of the game.
The Cardinals pulled within one point several times in the second quarter behind baskets from Ashley Clausen and Pauli Pappas. Each time, Soquel answered back to hang onto a narrow 27-24 lead going into halftime.
Soquel began to pull away in the third quarter, again behind the strong play of Graves. A high-scoring fourth quarter by both teams got the large crowd cheering loudly.
Santa Cruz grabbed momentum when Clausen scored a basket and Pappas stole the ensuing inbound pass at the 6:38 mark. On the following possession, Soquel was pressured heavily by the Santa Cruz defense and looked to be facing a shot clock violation, which would have given the ball back to the Cardinals.
With just a couple seconds left, Graves calmly dribbled into the heart of the Santa Cruz defense and scored on a left-handed runner from the lane just before the buzzer, eliciting cheers from Soquel fans and amazement from the others.
Papas and Clausen made the game close down the stretch by pulling Santa Cruz within two baskets. Time and again, Soquel responded.
Madison Rocha had a big fourth quarter, hitting a three pointer with four minutes remaining to increase the lead to six points. She also followed up with a nice runner of her own on the next possession for two more.
It seemed as though Soquel had an answer for every run and momentum swing that Santa Cruz was able to put together.
Soquel now has a chance to win the league outright if they also win the playoff tournament which starts next week.
“That game was especially nice because it had a piece of the championship. No one can take it away from us,” said Graves, who anticipates playing St. Francis in their first playoff game, a team that recently beat them in double overtime.