By CLAIRE CRUZ, Special to the Star
SANTA ROSA — Lyford point guard Damaris Bermudez proves true the adage, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, but the size of the fight in the dog.”
Despite being the smallest person on the court at 5-feet, 1-inch tall, the sophomore shined Friday night in Santa Rosa, leading Lyford to a 53-29 win over the Lady Warriors.
Bermudez did it all for the Lady Bulldogs, dropping 17 points, dishing out masterful assists, recording steals and even stuffing a shot.
“I shocked myself, to be honest. It feels really great,” Bermudez said. “Before the game I was going through some stuff and really mad, so I took it out on the court. I want to beat bigger people, no matter how tall they are. I play like they’re my size, and it doesn’t bother me. They’re just another opponent.”
The energy level was ramped up to 10 as the teams battled in a physical, speedy contest. Lyford’s fast-paced offense and quick-handed defense pushed the tempo early, which gave Santa Rosa trouble.
The Lady Bulldogs forced turnovers on many of Santa Rosa’s first-half offensive setups and used their speed to push the ball down court for easy buckets. The Lady Warriors played good defense when the tempo slowed down and made it difficult for Lyford to get the ball inside to senior post Kayleen May, but the Lady Bulldogs were stronger on the boards and finished on second-chance shots.
“That’s our strength, pushing the ball and using our speed,” Lyford coach Teresa Gutierrez said. “If we’re getting steals off the press we’re really good, but we need to work on the halfcourt offense. We came out with an intense start and were able to get a good cushion.”
After falling into a 20-5 hole after the first quarter, Santa Rosa started forcing shots in the second, which led to sloppy play. Bermudez and fellow guard Emily Gonzalez turned up the stifling Lyford defense to hold the Lady Warriors to two points in the second quarter, and they directed the offense well to take a 33-7 lead into halftime.
Santa Rosa outscored the substitute-led Lady Bulldogs in the second half, 22-20. May scored all six Lyford points during the third quarter and finished with 12 behind a strong performance in the paint, where she monopolized the offensive rebounding.
Santa Rosa scored two 3-pointers during the third and five overall, with three coming from Flor Gomez. The Lady Warriors were better at the free throw line as well, making 67 percent of their free throws to Lyford’s 48 percent. Though they played better in the second half, the damage had been done.
“We’ve been a second-half team all season, and we just can’t do that against good teams like Lyford,” Santa Rosa coach Robbie Cruz said. “We just dug ourselves so deep in the start, it hurt us at the end.”