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August 11, 2022

Falcons girls’ basketball team back on the winning track

Elaina Benoit scored a career-best 24 points against Soquel

Scotts Valley High senior Elaina Benoit has been begging to shoot the ball more often this season, telling the girls’ basketball coaching staff that she’s ready to make some noise.

The senior guard scored a career-best 24 points, including five 3-pointers, and made three steals en route to a 65-40 win against Soquel High in Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League action Tuesday night.

It was a nice bounce-back win for the Falcons after losing two straight to Santa Cruz High in league play. Benoit said getting the win wasn’t just important to them but for the coaching staff, as well.

“It was nice getting back out here and just believing that we could do it and we did it,” Benoit said. 

Scotts Valley coach Gabe Gonzalez said Benoit was clutch for them and has been begging to have a performance like she did Tuesday.

“She’s always ready to pull and ready to shoot,” he said. “And the awesome thing is she continues to believe every shot she takes is going in.”

Senior Kaitlin Imai had 20 points and made 10 of 11 free-throw attempts. She also had three steals and six assists, most of them to Benoit. 

“Being able to regroup and get our heads back in the game I think is really important,” she said. “To come out with a win is really good for us going into the rest of the season.”

Imai is coming off a stellar performance against the Cardinals on Jan. 21. She scored a school-record 44 points and set a Central Coast Section single-game record of 13 3-pointers. 

On Tuesday, a majority of the shots she took weren’t falling in and she credited Soquel’s defense for playing her tough throughout the game. 

“You have good nights, you have not as good nights, it’s all in the flow,” Imai said. “I’m just happy we can pull out a win regardless of how I performed.”

Gonzalez called Imai an all-around basketball player and their main goal is to let her know that she doesn’t have to score 44 points each night. 

“[Imai] can pass the ball, she can play defense and she can change the game,” he said. “She’s really taken over that role of whatever we need, she’s plugging it in and today she found Benoit.”

Gonzalez said he was trying to make adjustments and try something new but his assistant coaches insisted on sticking with the game plan.

“We’re going to go in each and every game to try to play our tempo and our game, whatever that is,” he said. “Tonight, it was playing man to man, pushing the ball and we wanted to run up the score as in trying to get more buckets, not try to demoralize.”

Imai said they already knew what to expect against a Knights team that they’ve seen plenty of times in the past. So, all they had to do was play with confidence and go according to the game plan that was set in practice. 

“But the most important part for us is just us being able to play our own game,” she said. “We get set in our offense, we play tenacious defense and that’s how we get things done.”

Benoit added that the win gives them the confidence to continue winning.

“I think we got it in the bag,” she said. “I think we have the motivation to do so. Gabe works us hard in practice, we all have the motivation to do that and I really think that’s the difference.”

Imai said that sometimes they tend to forget how good of a team they can be, especially when they got off to a slow start as they did on Tuesday.

“I think the biggest thing for us is being able to pick it up in the second half and turn it around and finish the game out strong,” she said.

Gonzalez said he noticed there were some jitters to start the game. He usually meets with the team prior to their games but they didn’t have a chance to do so on Tuesday.

“I felt like we weren’t ready to play and it’s more on me. I apologized to them and said ‘Hey, get me out of this,’” he said. “And they obliged.” 

Senior Ava Turowski finished with eight points and seven rebounds, and junior Elana McGrew added eight points and seven rebounds for the Falcons (9-7, 2-2), who play at San Lorenzo Valley High (6-7, 1-1) on Friday at 5:30pm.

“This is important for us because we need to show that we can hang with all the rest of the teams in the league,” Imai said. “Just being able to come out and compete and perform. We expect to win games because we know our talent level.”

Scotts Valley High senior Kaitlin Imai, right, talks with coach Gabe Gonzalez during their league game against Soquel High on Jan. 25. (Juan Reyes/Press Banner)
Juan Reyes
A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.

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