Playing on the road after a nearly month-long layoff against a rival, Orcutt Academy's girls basketball team started Tuesday night's game a bit sluggish.
The Spartans shook off the rust rather quickly, however.
Orcutt Academy rallied from an early deficit to defeat Santa Maria 60-46 in the Los Padres League opener for both teams.
The Saints jumped out to an 18-14 lead after the first quarter. The Spartans then jumped ahead, outscoring Santa Maria 19-6 in the second for a 33-24 halftime lead. Orcutt Academy led 49-33 after three quarters.
Though the Spartans had a noticeable size advantage over the Saints, they used speed to get out in transition and score inside Tuesday.
"We're just a scrappy group that pushes the ball," said Orcutt coach Tom Robb. "Once we're pushing the ball it's hard for teams to keep up with us. That's what we work on a lot, getting up and down the court."
Orcutt Academy last played on Dec. 9 against East Bakersfield at a tournament in Kerman.
"We had a big layoff, so we hadn't had a game for awhile and that's why we started off so slow," Robb added.
The Spartans already have two more wins this year than all of last season when they went 5-17 and 1-13 in the LPL. They're now 7-1 overall and 1-0 in the LPL. Santa Maria also entered the game 6-1 on the season, but now sits at 6-2 and 0-1 in league.
Orcutt Academy is at Nipomo Thursday night in another LPL game. Santa Maria faces Lompoc.
The Spartans were powered by the play of their standout guards. Vanessa Salazar led the way with 22 points while Daenaejah Malicdem added 20.
"That's really tough for people to handle," Robb said of his two guards. "Vanessa can dribble with the best of them and she's so calm, cool and composed that it really helps the team out. She's definitely our floor leader. And Daenaejah, as a freshman, does really well under pressure and she has a great shot so that helps. And being left-handed helps, too."
Salazar really helped spark the Spartans in the second quarter, nailing back-to-back 3-pointers for a 28-19 lead.
Mariah Lopez, Orcutt Academy's center, scored 10 points and added some defense and rebounding inside.
Santa Maria's Nelly Sarafin, a post presence for the Saints, scored 13 points in the first quarter for Santa Maria but struggled to put the ball in the basket the rest of the game despite getting some good looks inside. Sarafin finished with 14 points to lead the Saints. Freshman Iceis McNutt added eight points for Santa Maria.
Salazar said she doesn't back down from her role as a leader on the team despite being just a sophomore.
"Coach puts a lot of pressure on me and I know that I have to lead the team in order to get the win," she said. "But there's no 'I' in team. So the whole team has to contribute to the win."
Salazar also feels this team has the necessary attitude to rally from a deficit, something the Spartans did against the Saints.
"Once we're down we always have that confidence to get up there, we're not going to stay down," Salazar said. "This year we are definitely going to start getting more wins."
Salazar said that Spartans, "expect to get that win" against Nipomo on Thursday and that the playoffs are a definite possibility for this group.
"We think we only have to win four more games to make the playoffs," she said. "We believe it's possible."
Santa Maria 97, Orcutt Academy 69
Blake Truhitte led Santa Maria in its league opener on the road with 27 points. Kobe Medina added 19 points and five rebounds while junior guard Thomas Segel popped in 18 points.
Joey Nevarez, the Saints' leading scorer, chipped in 16. Jon Ramos added 10 boards for Santa Maria.
"It was a well-balanced attack and a good team effort to move Santa Maria to 8-3 overall and 1-0 in the LPL," Santa Maria coach Dave Yamate said.