The atmosphere was festive at the Nogales High School gymnasium on Monday as the Apaches girls kicked off the 2019-2020 high school basketball season in Santa Cruz County. The pep band, joined by the flag and pom teams, kept things lively and the cheerleaders and fans did their part to root the players on.

Unfortunately, things on the court weren’t quite so upbeat for the home team as NHS fell 60-31 to Salpointe.

“We just didn’t come out and play today. There was no energy – which is weird because it’s our first game,” said head coach Yahaira Sanchez.

“We didn’t box out, we gave up 13 offensive rebounds – you can’t win like that,” she said.

The Apaches trailed from the start, falling behind 14-4 before calling timeout 3:34 into the game. Salpointe led by 14 after the first quarter, by 15 at the half, and continued pulling away in the second half.

Senior forward Dominique Acosta led Nogales with 17 points, followed by freshman point guard Daniela Ochoa with seven.

“We started two freshmen and I think that’s real exciting,” Sanchez said in reference to Ochoa and Jessica Villarino. Another freshman, Paulina Flores, came off the bench to log significant minutes.

“Our freshmen did really well, our starting point guard did really well. That’s something I look forward to,” Sanchez said.

A year ago, the Nogales girls went 10-8 overall and qualified for the 5A Conference postseason as the No. 19 seed. The roster on Monday featured seven players returning from that squad, including Acosta, a 5A Southern Region first team selection who led the team with 13.9 points per game and was second with 10.3 rebounds.

Sanchez said her team has the potential to win the region this year.

“We just have a lot of things to iron out as far as coming together as a team because that’s the thing, you’ve got to play on the court like a team,” she said. “Once that happens, we’ll be very, very efficient.”

The NHS girls are set to play in a tournament in Tucson on Saturday, then at Douglas on Tuesday. Their next home game is Thursday, Dec. 5 against Flowing Wells, starting at 7 p.m.

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