It’s the end of an era and the Lompoc Braves girls’ basketball team plans to end it in style.

Lompoc, Cabrillo and Santa Ynez High Schools are joining the CIF Central Section, leaving the Channel League and CIF Southern Section, at the end of the school year.

Before they go, the Braves are planning to bounce back from a disappointing 2020-21 season and go out on a winning note.

“We have everyone back from last year,” said Lompoc head coach and Athletic Director Claudia Terrones, in her 18th year as head coach and fourth as A.D. “I’ve got all 10 girls back from last year’s team and we’ve added two freshmen (guards Halee Sager and Jalisa Dixon) who will play key roles.”

Last year’s Covid-shortened season ended with a 2-9 overall record, 2-8 and fifth place in the Channel League.

Lompoc has already matched last year’s win total; tipping off the season with a 55-42 victory over Pioneer Valley last Thursday night and a 46-44 win over Ventura’s Foothill Tech Friday afternoon at the Santa Maria Varsity Tournament at Santa Maria High’s Wilson Gym.

The Braves’ veteran leadership was on full display.

Ten Braves scored in the win over Pioneer Valley, led by junior Alayna Mendoza (10 points), senior Mallory Branum (9), junior Cierra Bailey (9), junior Cheyanne Cordova (8) and senior Haylee Zavala (7) – accounting for 43 of their 55 points.

The Braves led all the way in the opener against Pioneer Valley, but they trailed the entire Foothill Tech game and had to battle back from a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit for a come-from-behind win. Lompoc then lost to Paso Robles 45-42 and to Arroyo Grande 57-43 on Saturday. 

“All 12 of our players bring something unique to the table,” said Terrones.

“Cierra can do it all – shoot, rebound, provide a steady hand on the floor. Mallory can hit the outside shot and run the floor but Alayna is our regular point guard and floor general. She can really take control of a game.

“Cheyanne is an amazing three-sport athlete. She plays volleyball, softball and basketball. Cheyanne, (senior forward) Natalie Soriano and Haylee all play multiple positions – really, all our players do, they are all so versatile. Haylee has come so far. She controls the post, really battles for position under the boards.

“That allows us to play and hi-low, inside-outside offense. We try to get that ball in low to our frontline to get easy shots but if the inside is tied up, then we can toss it outside to get the shot.

“It all starts with defense – tough defense. We rely on a strong transition game so we can try for that inside shot first.”

Terrones stresses that versatility, quickness and depth are keys to this year’s squad.

“We play fast,” said Terrones. “We practice fast and we play fast. We’re constantly moving. We used to practice for 2½ hours every day. Now, we get in the gym and we go, go, go – get it done in 90 minutes – and then we have to bring that energy to every game.”

The rest of the players on the Braves squad are senior Shantel Gonzalez, juniors Elizabeth Alcantara, Mirann Mangino and Makayla Figuereo.

The Braves play 18 preseason games before their 10-game Channel League campaign.

“Our goal is to play a tough preseason schedule to get us ready for league play,” said Terrones. “Then we’re pushing to be in the top three in league and earn a CIF playoff spot.”

While Lompoc is off to a strong start, the Braves are still a work in progress,

“There are always little things that you need to fix,” said Terrones. “But we can fix them. What you can’t fix is heart, you can’t fix energy – we have both.”

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