Menlo girls’ varsity basketball defeated Harker 55-47 on Jan. 10 to earn their first league win of the year. The Knights were led by strong performances from sophomores Ruiqi Liu and Karen Xin, who amassed 20 and 15 points respectively.
The Knights were coming off losses to Palo Alto and Sequoia just days before. “It was incredibly important for us to win this game because we were on a losing streak,” Liu said.
“Our team this year has an expectation of winning, so being able to bounce back from a losing streak is really important, especially when we felt like we shouldn’t have gone on [it] in the first place,” Xin said.
The Knights controlled the game from the start with strategic offensive plays and a barrage of 3-pointers from both Liu and Xin in the first half. With help from other teammates, including sophomore Izzy Klugman, junior Summer Young and seniors Jordan Brooks and Hannah Satuito, the team managed to extend their lead to 34-16 right before halftime.
The Harker Eagles trailed for the majority of the game, but the tide nearly turned when they pulled within five points of the Knights during the second half. The Eagles secured three rebounds and forced two turnovers to start their scoring run. “After the first half, we weren’t really scoring as a team and playing as good friends,” Liu said.
Menlo girls’ varsity Assistant Coach Drea Hernandez believes her team’s slower pace in hustle plays and running the floor in the second half allowed Harker to catch up. “I think what’s important for us is that we find pride in our defense, and [because] we rely on offense, we’ve got to amp it up on defense a little bit more when it comes time to run,” Hernandez said.
To fend off the attack, the Menlo coaching staff called for a timeout. After the break, the Knights began closing out faster to obstruct the Eagles from driving to the basket. The Knights played with enough defensive intensity to constrain Harker to the perimeter, though the Eagles aptly responded with a string of three-pointers.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Knights stalled again offensively. After another timeout, Brooks cut to the basket and caught a skillful assist from Liu before making a layup, halting the momentum of the Eagles. The Knights then sealed the game with a couple free throws from Liu, ending with a final score of 55-47.
Although Menlo managed to secure the win, the Knights still have some key areas to focus on as a team, according to Xin. Both coaches and players look to improve communication. “Naturally, we are a quieter team this year, so we have to find ways to really talk and be loud to each other, especially in a big gym where it’s hard to hear,” Xin said.
With a big crop of graduating seniors from last year, the team had to welcome many new players from junior varsity. “We lost like six or seven seniors last year […], so I think we’re just kind of getting back into that groove and figuring out what works with everybody,” Satuito said.
Hernandez also has some new goals to keep in mind as the team continues playing in the next couple of months. “I would like to see our defensive rotation improve as well as our team camaraderie,” Hernandez said.