BARSTOW - A loss to Granite Hills put the Barstow girls basketball team right where it wants to be.

No, really.

Despite losing 59-51 to the Cougars at the Don Bilsborough Gymnasium, the Aztecs played well while missing top scorer and rebounder Nisha Barrett. Barstow coach Derrick Delton emerged from the locker room after the game with a big smile and said he was pleased with how his team has come together in back-to-back losses this week.

"We are finally a team right now," Delton said. "Once we get everyone going we are going to be tough to beat."

The real challenge comes next week, Delton said. Barstow travels to Burroughs on Tuesday with second place in the Desert Sky League on the line and then plays the DSL's top team, Silverado, at home Thursday.

"We are so looking forward to our game on Tuesday," Delton said. "The game on Tuesday is the real game for us. This game and the Serrano's game was basically just a tune up for what we'll see next week. Burroughs and Silverado - that's what we have to be geared up for.

"We are going to shock some people. A lot of people are looking at us on a slide right now, not knowing what's going on. That game, Thursday against Silverado, we are going to be ready to play."

Barrett, a sophomore who averages 18 points and 14 rebounds per game, is expected to return to practice today, and Delton said she should be ready to play against Burroughs and Silverado. Barrett suffered an ankle sprain Jan. 17 against Victor Valley High School when she got sandwiched between two Jackrabbits' defenders.

Barrett's absence seemed to doom the Aztecs early on as the Cougars went on an 18-3 run to begin the game. Granite Hills was able grab rebounds and score points in the paint without Barrett in the lineup.

Sophomore Elana Chavez provided a key contribution for Barstow. Chavez played in a JV game on Wednesday but looked in sync at the varsity level Thursday. She led the Aztecs with 13 points. Stefanie Dado added 11 points and Cherrell Green scored 10 points.

"Although she didn't know all the plays she was active," Delton said. "That's exactly what we wanted out of her."

Barstow eventually picked up the pace at the beginning of the second quarter, going on a 12-0 run and taking a 22-18 lead.

Foul trouble began to wear on the Aztecs as the game went on. Alyssa Maldonado and Yinessa Warren each had three fouls by the end of the first half and exited the game with five fouls in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Granite Hills forward Ashley Baugaertel took full advantage of the Aztecs foul trouble. Baugaertel finished with 23 points and went 11-for-14 from the foul line.

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