High School Sports

Girls Basketball Taylor leads Atascadero past SLO

Atascadero High’s Raven Taylor and San Luis Obispo’s Hannah Kenny aren’t too unalike on the basketball court.

Each of them entered the week ranked in the top five in the PAC 7 in both scoring and rebounding. Both are senior leaders. The similarities are even subtle, as both leave their feet at the charity stripe, appearing to treat ordinary free-throw attempts like contested in-game jump shots.

Only one of them left San Luis Obispo High with a win on Wednesday night, though.

Taylor, a 5-foot-10 forward, had a game-high 20 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Greyhounds to a hard-fought 54-50 win that put them alone in second place in the PAC 7 standings.

Atascadero (12-3, 4-1) — ranked No. 13 in the CIF-Southern Section Division IV-AA poll — also got inside help from Shannon Berwick, who had 12 points. Alyssa Palma added eight in the victory.

“Hannah got loose on us a couple times, but I think we were able to shut down San Luis’ inside game as much as anyone can,” Atascadero coach Jim Stecher said. “Matchup-wise, with Raven and Shannon in there, we have a pretty good 1-2 punch inside.“It’s a big win for us.”

Kenny, a 5-11 center, led the Tigers (9-10, 4-2) with 15 points. Kaylee Williams chipped in 11, and fellow guards Kelsey O’Hagan and Malie Guy had nine apiece in defeat.

“Raven had a great game, and we knew she would,” San Luis Obispo coach Mike Godsey said. “Hannah played tough and strong as ever; we can always rely on Hannah to have a great game.”

Kenny entered No. 1 in the league in scoring at 16.9 points per game, and second in rebounding at 12 per contest. Taylor was fourth and first, respectively, in each category, with comparable averages of 15.2 and 12.2.

Taylor scored Atascadero’s first seven points Wednesday, lifting the Greyhounds to a 10-4 first-quarter advantage. From that point on, Taylor and Kenny both had their moments; with about five-and-a-half minutes left in the second quarter Taylor put back a miss over Kenny for a 16-8 lead, and with roughly 5:45 remaining in the third Kenny had a forceful block of a Taylor shot in the key.

Atascadero took its biggest lead at 38-28 on an Emily Boege 3-pointer with 1:15 left in the third and led 42-33 heading into the fourth, but the Tigers steadily whittled the lead down. With just under two minutes left, Kelsey O’Hagan sank a 3-pointer to tie the contest at 48.

“I’m proud of our resiliency,” Godsey said. “We’re at a point in the year where it’s internal motivation that comes from the players. They’re such a tight unit, they’re never going to give up.”

Taylor knocked down a pair of free throws to put Atascadero back up 50-48 on the next possession, but San Luis Obispo’s Kaylee Williams deadlocked the score again, at 50, on a runner with 55 seconds left. A Jessica Gates layup put the Greyhounds up for good, 52-50, before San Luis Obispo turned it over on its next trip down the floor and was forced to foul down the stretch.

“We knew how big the shots were,” Taylor said of the late free throws. “Despite the crowd and stuff, we knew we had to get them down.”

Atascadero’s only league loss came Jan. 6, when it fell behind 16-0 to Arroyo Grande (13-5, 5-0) — the eighth-ranked team in Division III-AA — and never recovered, falling 66-45. The rematch will be Jan. 29 in Atascadero.

“We’re pretty excited,” Taylor said of being in second in the league standings. “We’re learning to pull back together when we fall apart during a game, and we’re sharing the ball and being a team.”