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High School Girls' Basketball: Akins, Lofton take over late

ISHMAEL JOHNSON
Sports Editor

AUSTIN — Denae Lofton was tired of trading shots.
The junior guard quelled a late San Marcos (8-20, 0-1 in District 14-6A) rally in the final period and spearheaded an Akins run to hand the Lady Rattlers a 67-49 loss during their district opener Friday night.

Freshman center Grace Latham rejected a layup attempt and sparked a San Marcos fast break opportunity that ended with a transition layup from junior guard Mikayla Gongora. Senior MacKenzie Saenz followed that up with a 3-pointer to bring San Marcos within two points. The Lady Rattlers never led inside Akins High School Gym and were within one defensive stop of having the chance to tie it.

Lofton got the in-bound pass after Saenz’s 3 and quickly pulled up at the top of the key and connected from beyond the arc. Akins regained possession and the junior guard did it again. The same shot from almost the same spot.

Akins’ lead was back to eight with 3:17 to play and the Lady Rattlers couldn’t bring the deficit any closer.

“That hurt us,” San Marcos head coach Veronda Kendall said. “We talked about (Lofton), making sure that we stopped her drive and closed out on her. She can get the shot off when she doesn’t even look like she has enough space. I think some of our guys, obviously, gave her way too much room. She can get it off.
“It takes a little bit of air out of you, it really does. We talked about guarding hard, getting stops and giving up those outside shots really deflates you.”

Lofton finished with 23 points and was only bested by San Marcos’ own Saenz who scored a game-high 25 with three 3-pointers after shaking off an 0-of-4 start to the night.
Latham and junior forward Taylor Henderson fouled out late leaving Akins’ inside to control the offensive boards late and push the final margin to nearly 20.

Early in the game San Marcos was boosted by freshman Bethany Gutierrez off the bench. Gutierrez tallied three steals in the first half alone and the freshman’s defensive energy kept her in the rotation for the rest of the game.

“Beth is a good player and she’s one of these young freshmen that’s going to be really, really tough as she progresses and gets older,” Kendall said. “She played strong on both ends and she was active on both ends. Some things to refine, but she’s a good one.”

In addition to Latham’s block late and Saenz’s pivotal scoring, freshman Miranda Lamb sent the Lady Rattlers into the locker room with an added boost with a buzzer-beating corner 3-pointer to cut down a double-digit Eagle lead.

There were tons of individual moments for San Marcos Friday night, Kendall would just love to see her team finally put it all together.

“Our kids are battling, they’re battling,” Kendall said. “All of them contribute, but we just got to do it all when it counts and all at the same time. I thought all of them had some shining moments, but we’ve got to put it all together for four quarters.”

San Marcos travels to Del Valle Tuesday to play the Cardinals at 7 p.m.

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