DIXON – The first quarter of Thursday's first-round game of the Dixon tournament concluded with a pair of Aquin turnovers that turned into points on the opposite end for Sterling.
The two baskets extended the Warriors' lead out to double digits, and was indicative of the defense played by Sterling that led to a 53-34 win over the defending 1A state champions.
"We played a lot of very good teams at the Sterling Shootout," Sterling guard Gabby Sandoval said. "Even though we didn't win a lot of those games, we learned a lot. We wanted to come back and play well, and we did."
In the past, the key to beating Aquin was taking Sophie Brunner out of the game. Brunner, however, is now playing at Arizona State. The key this year is to stop junior guard Haley Chang.
That responsibility fell to Sandoval.
"We had seen that Haley Chang had scored over 20 points in a lot of their games," Sterling coach Julie Schroeder said. "That's the nice thing about having Gabby on the team. It's a luxury to have a girl you can put on the best player and know they are going to stick on that person like Gabby can."
Chang was held to nine points on 4-for-15 shooting from the field.
The Bulldogs (7-6) had few stints where they were able to get shots to fall, and ended up shooting 15-for-42 (36 percent).
"When they started to make a few more, we would come up and pressure them more," Sandoval said.
Sterling (8-6) seized full control in the last 4 minutes of the second quarter, after Aquin had cut the lead to three points at 16-13.
Sandoval then scored the next five points to start a 13-0 run by the Warriors to close the half. Sandoval had 11 of her 13 points in the first half; she also had four assists and two steals.
She wasn't the only Warrior to start strong. Kaitlyn Bauer scored eight points in the first quarter alone, and finished with a game-high 17 points. She also had six rebounds.
Kiarra Harris didn't attempt a shot in the first half, letting her passing and defense do the work. She finished with eight points, five assists and five steals.
"I was really happy with how sharp we came out playing," Schroeder said. "We had lost a few games in a row, and because of the holiday, we hadn't played in 4 days. You never know how that's going to affect a team, but they came out with good energy."
Aquin went on an 8-0 run to conclude the third quarter, but that only pulled it as close as 14 points at 43-29. Katie Stykel led Aquin with 11 points.
The comfortable lead helped the shorthanded Warriors catch their breath. With Rashel Robinson out with injury, the team dressed only eight players.
"We have a small group," Schroeder said, "but the nice part about it is that each girl is going to get a lot minutes. We can rely on each one of them to come in and do the job."
Star of the game: Gabby Sandoval, Aquin, 13 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals
Key performers: Katie Stykel, Aquin, 11 points; Kaitlyn Bauer, Sterling, 17 points, 6 rebounds
Up next: Dixon tournament – Sterling vs. Stillman Valley, 1:30 p.m. today