Joseph Williams’ voice pierced through the silence at Sierra High School like a buzz saw Wednesday evening.
The Stallions girls basketball coach detested the effort displayed by his No. 10-ranked squad in the third quarter and the fact that it kept Cheyenne Mountain alive in the game.
During a time out in the third quarter of the Stallions’ 51-44 victory over Cheyenne Mountain, Williams ensured his team increased their energy.
“If you don’t wanna play with heart, turn in your uniforms and I’ll put in somebody who will [play with heart],” Williams said.
Those in attendance – which only included a handful of athletes, coaches and other personnel thanks to COVID-19 mitigation – listened as Williams delivered the stark message to his players.
They then watched as those words fueled the Stallions and stymied Cheyenne Mountain in both team’s season openers.
“There’s nothing new that we do here,” Williams said. “The way we play here is with defense. You have to buy into defense. I’ll get on my players but when they do well, I’ll be the first one there to support them.”
The Stallions, (1-0 overall) clamped down on defense in the first quarter after holding Cheyenne Mountain (0-1 overall) to just one bucket as Sierra took a 10-2 lead into the second quarter.
Cheyenne Mountain hit its stride in the period while returning the favor on defense. Cheyenne Mountain used a 12-3 run to build a 14-13 lead at the break.
“At halftime, coach told us not to get frustrated and to work on what we did in practice,” said Stallions senior Jade Howell. “He wanted us to slow down, work as a team and not get frustrated.”
Stallions senior Arianna Reyes shared similar sentiments regarding the team’s first half.
“It was a great win for us but there’s plenty to take away from this game,” Reyes said. “We have to work on our defense and play defense as a team ... then we can get those rebounds and steals.”
Cheyenne Mountain started the third with on an 11-6 run and built a 25-19 lead with 3:53 on the clock.
That triggered Williams to call a time out to deliver the "do better or leave" message to the Stallions.
After that, Sierra scored 12 and held Cheyenne Mountain to 2 points to give the Stallions a 31-27 cushion entering the fourth.
Cheyenne Mountain went scoreless until 5:10 remained in the fourth and the Stallions had a 38-30 lead.
“After coach let us have it, I feel like we got it together,” Howell said. “We started looking at the court more, (looking to see) who was open and playing defense better.”
In the fourth quarter, though, Cheyenne Mountain’s Alena San Agustin got hot.
During the final 4:30, San Agustin scored 12 of her 16 points and helped close the gap to 43-42 with 2:50 left in the game.
But Sierra had a final push and stifled Cheyenne Mountain while the Stallions cooked on offense.
Sierra closed the game on an 8-2 run with a pair of steals and full-court pressure paving the way to the win.
“That was defense and pride,” Williams said. “They locked down who they were guarding and rebounded. We noticed Cheyenne Mountain had trouble catching their breath with the masks. I kept telling them to push the ball and that was why.”
Howell finished with a game-high 17 points and Reyes added 12 for Sierra. Aliyah Parra had 7, Jasmine Johnson scored 5 points, Faith Shepard had 4 and Semajae Parker Selena Pope and Teani Perryman each had 2 in the game.
The gauntlet begins next week for the Stallions as they will play four games in seven days with a pair of road and home contests.
Sierra begins its week with a home game against Falcon (1-0) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Sierra High School.