TULARE — Hanford West struggled from the tip-off and fell in the opening round of the 9th Annual Tulare Mid-Winter Showcase Invitational, 69-33 to Mission Oak.

Nayleen Galaviz and Jaslin LeGarreta led the team with six points each, but the problem has been the same all year. The team hasn’t been able to play team basketball for a complete 32 minutes.

They’ve shown bursts of excellence when they’ve played as a cohesive unit and trust one another, but the consistency has not been present.

“When we talk more, we tend to execute more,” Madison Sousa said. “When we look up and we look at each other, knowing that we have four other players, it helps us.”

The Hanford West guard put in a running floater to score the team’s first points after getting off to another slow start and falling behind 12-0 in the first quarter.

They found open shots by swinging the ball, but couldn’t get them to drop. The ball rattled in-and-out, clanked off the rim and the backboard wasn’t kind with the touch. The looks were there, shots just weren’t going in.

This culminated in a 19-4 deficit for the Huskies (2-12, 0-1 WYL), who entered the tournament on a three-game losing streak.

“It always takes us a quarter or two to get warm,” Sousa said. “I think we need to come out better in our warmups and more fired up.”

And that’s exactly what happened in the second quarter — the team finally found its rhythm. First, it was Leah Natera hitting a 3-pointer and Sylinda Villado followed that up a couple minutes later with a 3-pointer from the left wing.

Hanford West put up 13 points in the second and when the offense was rolling, the team was communicating and the girls were sharing the basketball.

The communication died when on defense and it resulted in confusion, missed assignments and late rotations. They were beat in transition multiple times for easy layups and ball-watched too much on shot attempts.

“If we do something good, I feel like we take two steps forward and we jump 10 back,” said Hanford West coach Torreya Edwards. “Sometimes I don’t even know who to put in because of that. Maybe we need to readjust and figure out what roles are.”

Sousa’s teammate, Huskies captain Chelene Howard, echoed the same sentiments saying when the girls communicate they’re at their best and they trust one another.

“I don’t think we work together as a team,” Howard said. “We’re mostly like ‘I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that,’ but every now and then we’ll work together. Then we do something great.”

Howard’s solution to playing as a team was simple: “Just trust each other. Be able to rely on someone else.”

Hanford West entered the half down 38-17 and things didn’t get much better in the second half. They were beat in transition all night long, but still the Huskies had high energy, which is a positive for a struggling team.

The team was still calling out plays and swinging the ball to try and get open looks. They missed a lot of shots inside and the final half was tough, but never resigned themselves to defeat.

Natera in particular sprinted down the court on each fast break, took the open shot and played tough defense throughout the night. She was doing all the small things that’s needed to spark a team in a funk.

With the loss, Hanford West dropped into the consolation part of the bracket and faced the loser of the Porterville vs. Nipomo game. Porterville won 61-38.

Hanford West vs. Nipomo

Hanford West dropped its second game of the day 52-30 to Nipomo (4-6) and struggled to play another complete game again.

“No reason why we could not have beat [Nipomo],” Edwards said. “We played a very great fourth quarter, but it takes four quarters to win a game and not one.”

Howard led the way with a game-high 10 points. Sousa had nine points and Villado added seven points.

Hanford West vs. Templeton

Hanford West dropped its sixth game in a row and third in the tournament on Friday to Templeton.

The Huskies gave up 21 points in the first quarter and 20 more in the second to trail 41-21 at halftime and eventually lose 73-40.

Howard had a team-high 12 points and Aliyah Royal had seven points.

Noe Garcia can be reached at (559) 583-2431 or ngarcia@hanfordsentinel.com. Follow Noe on Twitter at @noecarlosgarcia.

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