Three days after earning a last-minute win with some clutch free throws at Glendale, the Bakersfield College Renegades found themselves in another close one late Saturday night.
But after a nervy early start against Antelope Valley, BC handled the high-pressure moments with aplomb.
"Honestly, if we're in a close game, my confidence goes up big time," coach Paula Dahl said.
Dahl's confidence was justified, as the Renegades scored 11 straight to escape a deficit late in the third quarter and kept sinking shots from close range to beat the Marauders 67-59.
BC (14-2, 3-0) had Kathleen Rodriguez back in the post for the first time in nearly a month, and she played a crucial role in a game contested primarily on the inside, recording 14 points and 17 rebounds to go blow for blow with Antelope Valley's (7-8, 0-1) Jadis Watson (12 points, 15 rebounds).
The Marauders, playing with just six players in their conference opener, were led by Vanessa Fletes (19 points, 11 rebounds), who was on the floor all 40 minutes.
Angie Gonzalez powered the Renegades with 15 points, and Julie Hernandez added 14 more to fuel a well-balanced offensive attack that picked up speed in the second half.
"The thing we really have going for us is the fact that we're a team," Dahl said. "We got different nights (when) different people step up."
BC has had some uneven first quarters this season, including at Glendale Wednesday, and when Watson opened the game with three quick layups in the post, Saturday's looked to be another.
The Renegades fought back quickly with a 9-0 run featuring three free throws by Isyss Scott and a hard-fought putback from Rodriguez off Scott's miss. But the Marauders were undaunted, and Fletes started to assert her presence inside too with a pair of close-range baskets to help Antelope Valley claim a 15-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.
However, the Marauders were plagued by turnovers early in the second, Watson slowed down (eight of her 12 points came in the first quarter) and BC claimed its biggest lead of the first half at 30-22 on another offensive rebound leading to a score for Rodriguez.
"That's just their personality and demeanor," Dahl said. "Our first quarters have been just awful, and then when they get down the stretch they kind of calm down."
The Renegades did come out sluggish to start the second half, however. This time it was the Marauders' turn to go 9-0, keyed by a transition layup through contact from Eriona Williams and a drive by Sara Heier that gave Antelope Valley its largest margin at 37-32.
The game was tied at 45 late in the third quarter when the Renegades had their most critical surge, beginning with a pull-up jumper by Gonzalez. With three seconds left in the quarter, the run came to a brief halt when Antelope Valley was called for a foul that aroused the Renegades' ire, leading to some shoving between the teams and a long delay.
That didn't disrupt BC's momentum; when the smoke cleared the Renegades got two more free throws, and early in the fourth went up 54-45 on a floater by Hernandez.
Fletes started to make an impact on the interior again, and Bailey Cassell hit the Marauders' lone 3-pointer of the game to bring Antelope Valley back to trail just 60-56. But BC hit five more free throws down the stretch, finishing 15-of-22 (Antelope Valley went just 6-of-14) and claiming the 67-59 win.
"We spend a lot of time on the mental side of the game, and I'm proud of them," Dahl said.
BC has won its first three conference games, bouncing back from a tough December tournament at West Hills Lemoore, and will host LA Valley next Saturday at 5 p.m.