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COUGARS ROUTE BULLDOGS TO STAY UNBEATEN

Academy Cougars guard Kali Benavente cashed in a double-double (17 points, 12 assists) to help keep her team unbeaten Friday night as they routed the visiting Okkodo Bulldogs 60-34, giving the Bulldogs their first loss of the season.

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By John Baza

In a battle of the unbeaten, it was the home team Academy Cougars who would emerge victorious over the Okkodo Bulldogs this Friday night. The Cougars hit the ground running, stunning the Bulldogs from the start to gain early control and pull away with the 60-34 win to remain atop the league’s standings.

Academy senior and team veteran Kali Benavente was awarded player of the game honors after finishing with a monstrous night, notching in a double-double performance with 17 points and 12 assists.

“The beginning of the year starting without Kali, our confidence grew significantly. Being able to win a couple of tough games without your best player is always a building block,” said Academy Coach Eddie Pelkey on his team’s progression.

“The belief that this team has in each other is unbelievable and I’m just real blessed to be a part of it,” added Pelkey.

The Cougars wasted no time, opening the game with a layup from freshman standout Mia San Nicolas off of a nice dime from Benavente. The home team would continue to roll after a drive from Kiersten Pangelinan and two layups courtesy of Benavente and Meaghan Cruz (8-0).

The Bulldogs’ Zaria Garrido was able to make some space to make space to hit a three, giving the Bulldogs their first points of the contest, but the defensive pressure of Academy overwhelmed the visiting team forcing turnovers.

The height advantage was apparent from the start with the Cougars controlling most of the boards thanks to post players San Nicolas and Cruz down low. The duo stuffed the offense of Okkodo, who mostly looked to score within the perimeter.

The Bulldogs’ Isla Quinata sparked a couple of runs throughout the game with her hustle on both ends of the court. Fellow teammate Garrido contributed in the effort to battle back with a pair of steals before the half, but the Bulldogs had no answer for the transition offense of the Cougars.

Team captains Benavente and Pangelinan displayed their court vision and passing abilities, finding teammates off screens and on the break to keep their team ahead (29-9).

Wendy's Player of the Game, Kali Benavente of the Academy Cougars.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Wendy’s Player of the Game, Kali Benavente of the Academy Cougars. (photo by Daniel Paran)

Looking to get some momentum flowing was Okkodo’s Garrido, who stripped the ball and went coast-to-coast for the lay up. But Academy’s Benavente capped off her monstrous quarter with six points right before the half to establish a comfortable 32-11 lead at the half.

“My team is confident and I know they can do anything. I see their potential and its just about them believing in themselves” said Benavente.

With Benavente orchestrating the offense, the Cougars opened the half on a 12-2 run. Defense played a key role in the run with San Nicolas and Cruz swatting shots while Camarin Hattori added two straight steals.

San Nicolas stole the show with a block on one end of the court followed by a coast-to-coast spin move lay up as the home team continued to lengthen the lead.

Okkodo didn’t let up as they continued to play aggressively, with buckets from Bulala, Quinata, and Nica Mojas to shorten the gap (52-28), but the effort came up short as the Cougars cruised to the win, capping off a strong showing.

Benavente lead all scorers followed by teammates San Nicolas (4 blocks) and Pangelinan (5 assists) who chipped in 12 and 11 points respectively.

The Bulldogs were lead by Quinata who scored 11 points and Mojas who had six.

PHOTO GALLERY BROUGHT TO YOU BY:

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Zaria Garrido shoots over Cougars' Mia San Nicolas for two.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Zaria Garrido shoots over Cougars’ Mia San Nicolas for two. (photo by Daniel Paran)

Caren Mesias of the Bulldogs keeps Kiersten Pangelinan in check outside the arc.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Caren Mesias of the Bulldogs keeps Kiersten Pangelinan in check outside the arc. (photo by Daniel Paran)

Shania Bulala calls out to her team to start up an offense.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Shania Bulala calls out to her team to start up the offense. (photo by Daniel Paran)

Uriyah Tobiason keeps the ball away from one of the Bulldogs as she charges in from the side.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Uriyah Tobiason keeps the ball away from one of the Bulldogs as she charges in from the side. (photo by Daniel Paran)

Cougars' coach Eddie Pelkey calls for a timeout to draw out a gameplan for the girls.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Cougars’ coach Eddie Pelkey calls for a timeout to draw out a gameplan for the girls. (photo by Daniel Paran)

Geawna Bamba shoots a pass after grabbing the rebound.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Geawna Bamba shoots a pass after grabbing the rebound. (photo by Daniel Paran)

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