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Righetti needed some offense late in the first half against Arroyo Grande Friday night.

Alijah Paquet provided it. 

After trailing 30-26 in the second quarter, Paquet, Righetti's lone returning senior on its varsity girls basketball team, scored five straight points to give the Warriors a halftime lead.

Paquet kept scoring after the break, finishing with 27 points in Righetti's 64-56 win over the Eagles.

The Warriors won back-to-back PAC 8 League championships with unbeaten records the last two seasons. They started the Mountain League era with a win Friday on the road. The Warriors improved to 8-4 while dropping Arroyo Grande to 11-6.

Malia Cabigon added 13 points for the Warriors, also providing some timely scoring. Alex Paquet, Alijah's younger sister, added nine points and Natalee Garcia had eight. 

Kaiya Ellison led Arroyo Grande with 17 points. Kathleen Hutchens and Jayci Bayne each added 15 points for the Eagles.

Righetti won despite playing without sophomore center Paityn Persson, who averages six points and six rebounds per game. 

Righetti coach Desiree Hitch felt the team's difficult preseason schedule helped them Friday night when they trailed Arroyo Grande near halftime.

"We've been playing some really tough preseason games where we have kind of lost the second half and I think we've learned from that," Hitch said. "Alijah really took the team and gave them a good spark. All the girls were aggressive on offense and we fell into a zone (defense), which isn't really my style, but it worked. We really just combined all that and ran with it."

Hitch says the team has been working on improving its man-to-man defense.

"Our team is pretty smart and we're quick, but we're not very good with our man defense this year," Hitch said. "We've been playing a little bit more zone and the girls are doing a really good job at it. It works and it slows teams down and I don't think teams expect us to run that. It helped us today."

But Alijah Paquet may have been the biggest factor in the Warriors' win. The senior had 13 points in the first half and 14 in the second, scoring nine in the third. Paquet knocked down five 3-pointers, but also drove to the basket effectively and created her own shot a number of times off the dribble.

"AG doesn't really like to be pushed around, so I felt that if we went right at them they would send us to the line," Paquet said. "We were hitting our free throws. Also, playing out of town (in tournaments) really helped us because those teams are much tougher. We experienced what it's like to lose and to also come back."

The Warriors went 9 for 11 from the free throw line Friday night. Paquet scored all of her points from the field, 15 coming on her five three-point baskets and 12 more on six two-point baskets. 

"My freshman year no one really knew who I was so they'd let me shoot," Alijah Paquet said. "Then defenses started playing more up on me so I had to learn another move or something else to do because I didn't always have open shots. At first I would miss every layup, but now I'm finishing better."

The Warriors are slated to play in a Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions game on Saturday before traveling to San Luis Obispo on Tuesday for another Mountain League game. The Tigers are 18-1 on the season.

"The girls are ready," Hitch said. "We've played some really tough teams and that's helped the girls grow because they're so young. This a young group and they needed that tough preseason so they can come home and be able to play. It's helped us rise to another level. We're ready to play."

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Joe Bailey is the sports editor at Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Contact him with tips and story ideas at jbailey@leecentralcoastnews.com or (805) 739-2239. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jbaileysmsports

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Sports Editor

Alumni Fresno State