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Mustangs erase 12-year skid

By Neil H. Devlin, Mullen Sports Information Director
Mullen handles Grandview 58-46 in a Centennial league road victory that halted a 22-games losing streak to the Wolves.
AURORA – The superlatives flowed freely on Wednesday night despite the frigid conditions.

And why not?

Mullen’s convincing 58-46 victory over host Grandview to open the Centennial League commanded attention.

It halted the Class 4A Mustangs’ 22-game losing streak to the 5A Wolves. The skid began 11 years ago to the day – Jan. 5, 2011. As for the last time the Mustangs had beaten Grandview? It was Jan. 29, 2010. No current Mustang had made it to the first grade.

Veteran Mustangs coach Frank Cawley called it “the best defensive performance I’ve ever had.”   

Before the game, he said, “I told the girls it was all about rebounding and defense … and walking out of here with a win is great.”

And it was thorough for Mullen, top-ranked in 4A and 8-2 overall. Grandview, which was playing its first in-state game of the season –it is 1-7 –and is led by 6-foot-7 pivot Lauren Betts, a Stanford signee, National Team member and touted in multiple circles as the top recruit nationally, led only twice in the opening minutes.

Mullen was resilient, got a bunch of contributions and didn’t blink when the Wolves closed a couple of times.

Senior Gracie Gallegos led the way with a game-high 21 points, Twelve came in the fourth quarter, notably five in a quick stretch in which she made two free throws following a Grandview technical foul and got free for a 3-pointer from the left wing that all but sealed it in the final minutes.

“We kept the energy high,” said Gallegos, who also held the Wolves’ Marya Hudgins (a Santa Clara signee) in check, limiting her to just eight points.

Seniors Kilah Freelon and Imani Perez combined for 16 points and were vital to the Mustangs’ rebounding and defense inside, particularly Freelon against Betts. Freelon teamed with Perez (signed with Hawaii) down low to play behind Betts, in front of her, intercepted and swatted away passes, and kept her from regularly getting the ball after establishing position.

“It feels amazing,” Freelon (headed to Texas tech) said, in noting that female followers usually are surprised when the Wolves fall, especially when considering that they have Betts. “It really is a release.”

Said Cawley: “They weren’t able to just lob it into (Betts). We had help behind her and all of the help principles were effectively executed.”

There was more. Senior guard Evenyce Gutierrez came up with 10 points. Emerging sophomore Allison Schwertner added nine as well as handfuls of steals and rebounds. Freshman Tatum Jones saw some quality minutes and freshman Ryker Thomas also appeared when Gutierrez got into foul trouble.

Betts finished with 17 points.

Mullen left with the victory.

And Cawley offered the final superlative: “This game is the most-important game I’ve coached and I wanted to win this one more than any other.”

Mullen  18  9  7  24  --  58 

Grandview  15  8  5  18  --  46 

Mullen – Gutierrez 4 0-0 10, Perez 2 4-5 8, Freelon 3 2-2 8, Schwertner 4 1-2 9, Gallegos 6 5-6 21, Jones 1 0-0 2, Thomas 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 12-15 58.

Grandview – Charles 2 2-2 6, S. Betts 3 0-2 6, Cunningham 2 1-2 5, Hudgins 2 2-2 8, L. Betts 7 3-6 17, Dillehay 0 0-0 0, O’Brien 0 0-0 0, Thomas 2 0-2 4, Lewis 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 8-16 46.

3-pt. goals – Gallegos 4, Gutierrez 2; Hudgins 2. Technical – Hudgins.