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The battle between last year’s Los Padres League and PAC-8 girls basketball champions came down to defense.

The top scorers on both sides — Zane Sheckherd of Righetti and Erin Jenkins of Cabrillo — were held to a combined 13 points. But it was Jenkins and the defending LPL champs prevailing in the 43-35 home win on Friday night.

The non-league contest between two of the more distinguished girls basketball programs in the area was added due to a cancellation. Both teams were set to compete in the Santa Barbara Tournament this weekend, but the raging wildfires in South Santa Barbara County and Ventura forced the tournament to be canceled — leaving both CHS and RHS hunting for non-league opponents.

“I was scrambling yesterday with making phone calls to see if I could get any kind of games. Luckily, I was able to get Cabrillo and Bakersfield Centennial,” said RHS head coach Desiree Hitch.

Added CHS head coach Jared McCune: “This is our first real strong opponent. Our tournament last week didn’t have strong competition so we were looking forward to playing Righetti. Glad they were able to make it work after our tournament games were canceled. They’re a great team. They’ve got good shooters.”

This banner contest became a feisty defensive battle to the finish — which both coaches kind of expected.

Cabrillo leaped out to an early 9-0 first quarter lead before Hitch called the early timeout. After trailing 13-3, Sheckherd would go on to score the next five points for the Warriors — including three from the white stripe that cut the Conquistadores lead to 13-8.

Righetti, 25-5 last year and a flawless 14-0 in the PAC-8, continued its run with Malia Cabigon and Mercedes Arredondo leading an 18-5 run that put the Warriors up 21-18 late in the second. However, Kiki Dial energized the 3-point game for CHS while Jenkins ignited the transition game with her steals and assists — culminating in a 7-0 run to take the 25-21 lead into halftime. McCune raved about Jenkins’ play outside of scoring.

“Erin is a phenomenal player because she actually takes pride in playing defense,” McCune said of the Northwest Nazarene University signee. “She’s not just worried about scoring and getting stats on the offensive end. She’s a shutdown defender and did a great job on Zane, but our whole team was aware of her as well. We played great team defense.”

Cabrillo swarmed and frustrated the Warriors on the scoring end. Not one RHS player ended the evening in double digits scoring. Ashley Reynoso and Kendall Bagby led the way with seven points apiece. Yet, Hitch had a feeling this contest was going to be a major challenge for her unit.

“I wasn’t surprised at all. I know Cabrillo is one of the top teams in our area,” Hitch said. “They’re experienced and they have more experience than we do. But that’s how we’ll get better and that’s what I wanted — I wanted to play them because that’s what we need. We want to play the best and get better.”

There was a scary moment during the second half. Cabrillo’s top post presence Brittney McCune went down with a freakish knee injury that forced her out of the game. She finished her evening on crutches and a bandaged left knee. McCune says there’s no set timetable on her return.

“We’re concerned. It was definitely her knee,” McCune said. “We’re going to give her a lot of time to relax and see how it feels for tomorrow.”

After Brittney McCune left the game, CHS turned to Jenkins to reignite the transition game. Cabrillo went on to build a 32-23 lead and never trailed the rest of the night. Overall, McCune said that he was most impressed with the defensive energy against the Warriors.

“It was an opportunity to see where we were at — and we didn’t have our best game by a long ways,” McCune said. “Offensively, we had way too many turnovers. We didn’t handle their press very well either — which is very uncharacteristic of us. So there are a lot of things we didn’t do well today. But because we played such strong defense, especially since we rebounded the ball and didn’t give away a lot of second chance opportunities, I think that right there was the difference in the game.”

Both teams played separate games against Bakersfield Centennial at Righetti on Saturday, making up for canceled Santa Barbara Tournament games. Righetti faced Centennial at 4:30 followed by the Cabrillo/Centennial game at 6. The results of those games were not available at press time.

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Sports Reporter