By Robert Balajadia
After grabbing their first win of the season Friday night, the Academy Cougars continued their strong start to the IIAAG girls basketball season by beating the ND Royals 63-51 in their Saturday night matchup while overcoming a big 30-point scoring output from Royals’ Destiny Castro.
The game also featured two interesting story lines with former St. John’s Knights Kali Benavente and Castro playing against each other for the first time in high school with Benavente playing with the Cougars and Castro playing with the Royals. The two often found each other going head-to-head and it was all smiles and no snarls between the former teammates whenever either would make a play.
When asked if the level of fun they showed displayed their basketball personality, Benavente responded with, “For the most part, but it has more to do with us just being friends.”
Benavente was the primary ball handler for the Cougars and she did not shy away from directing the girls while running the offense. “Coach always tells me to take control,” added Kali.
The other storyline was the head coaching matchup between Academy’s Eddie Pelkey and his father Bob Pelkey of the Royals. Despite being family, both coaches did not want to take any spotlight away from their girls and were all business before, during, and after the game.
“Hats off to ND, they are one hell of a basketball team. Everyone says, ‘it’s just Destiny’ but I don’t believe that. I think they have a great squad of girls that are buying in to what they are being taught and they gave us one hell of a game tonight,” Pelkey stated off the bat.
When asked about the “Pelkey vs. Pelkey” headline, Eddie ended with,”There were two great teams that went at each other and went hard at each other tonight. I’m proud of my girls just like he’s proud of his.”
Coach Bob shared his thoughts on facing Eddie saying, “It was fun! I’m glad that he shares the passion I have for basketball and he’s come a long way as a coach. I’m very proud of his accomplishments, but I’ve got to take care of my team. We’ve been talking about this for weeks but we wanted to just focus on our girls and that’s what it’s all about.”
With both teams getting a handful of girls back from the Far East Volleyball tournament, Coach Bob knows the league has not seen the best of the Royals by saying, “We’re going to improve so watch your backs because we’re still coming.”
The Cougars used a strong first half to get the jump on the Royals and managed to survive a rally led by Castro in the third quarter.
Academy led 34-26 after halftime but Castro managed to shave off six quick points to help trim the Cougar lead 36-34. A couple of big blocks by Royals center Corina Dudkiewicz got the crowd excited, but the Cougars stood strong with a couple of big baskets from sophomore Kiersten Pangelinan to help keep the Royals from ever taking the lead.
Pangelinan and Alina Bonto led the Cougars in scoring with 13 points while Gemilie Ilao scored all 11 of her points in the first quarter.
The Royals cut the lead to nine in the fourth quarter 50-41 off two free throws from Castro, but Bonto cashed in six of her 13 points down the stretch to once again kill the Royal momentum.
Bonoto got into foul trouble early which appeared to disrupt her rhythm in the game.
Though, Eddie Pelkey stressed that the Cougars are built to handle situations like that saying, “We are all interchangeable parts that’s why we’re one team. If one person goes down then someone has to step up and fill that role. That’s what we believe in, that’s why we trust in each other and it doesn’t matter who it is, we have someone willing to step up and it showed tonight.”
The Cougars will prepare to face the Southern Dolphins Monday night in the rescheduled game while the Royals will face the JFK Islanders on Friday.
JFK 48, Sanchez 31
Southern 60, Guam High 28
Okkodo 65, St. Paul 55
[fbshare url=”http://www.gspnlive.com/basketball/cougars-handle-royals/” type=”button”] [fblike url=”http://www.gspnlive.com/basketball/cougars-handle-royals/” style=”standard” showfaces=”false” width=”450″ verb=”like” font=”arial”]
[/sixcol_five_last][useful_banner_manager_banner_rotation banners=53, 38 interval=8 width=120 height=600 orderby=rand]
GPS Sports Calendar