Rancho girls dig in on ‘D,’ win Gator Winter Classic

At the rate it’s going, Rancho’s girls basketball team soon might be asked to defend Fort Knox.

Far from the flashiest team in the state, the Rams are starting to make their mark as downright solid defenders.

The latest example came Saturday when the Rams guarded, blocked and boxed their way to a 48-28 win over Coronado in the championship game of the Gator Winter Classic at Green Valley.

“We made them slow down and play our game,” Rancho coach Ashley Vossen said. “We played defense. We got in front of them. We used our feet and got our hands up on the shot. We go back to our fundamentals, and that’s what makes us successful.”

Rancho (14-3) entered the tournament having allowed a 27.8-point average in its first 11 games. The Rams went 6-0 in the tournament, allowing an average of 28.2 points per game and no more than 36 in any game.

But Coronado, which advanced to the final with a 79-71 win over Green Valley earlier in the day, appeared to be a threat to ruin those averages.

The Cougars, who averaged 58.2 ppg in their first five tournament games, even scored the first eight points and seemed poised to run away and hide.

“We’re a slow-starting team,” Vossen said. “We had to energize ourselves. We called a timeout, and I got on them, and they went out and just took control. They went out there with that passion and that determination that we are looking for.”

The Rams then got Coronado starters Dajah Washington and Skyler Feldman in early foul trouble and began to dominate on defense. Rancho chased Coronado’s shooters through screens and barely gave the Cougars another good look, holding Coronado to 3 of 26 from the field after the 8-0 run and building a 29-19 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Coronado (11-5) managed just eight offensive rebounds, three of which were deflected out of bounds, and with LaKissa Martin and Miyah Wilson dominating the glass, Rancho outrebounded Coronado 51-29, including a 43-20 edge in the final three quarters. Martin had 15 rebounds and Wilson 14 as Rancho’s starters stayed on the court for most of the game.

“My starters want this,” Vossen said. “That’s really what it is; it’s that want and that determination. They do whatever we ask, and I can’t ask any more.”

Coronado stayed within 33-23 on Washington’s drive with 5:34 to go, but a 3-pointer by Tatianna Lee with 3:28 left capped a 7-0 Rancho run and effectively secured the title.

Martin scored 16 and Lee 10 for Rancho. Washington had 13 points for Coronado.

Contact reporter Bartt Davis at bdavis@reviewjournal.com or (702) 387-5230.