BULLHEAD CITY — Friday evening at Mohave Accelerated Learning Center was dubbed “Western” night, so it was fitting the Lady Patriots waltzed into the sunset with a 51-19 win over Phoenix Day School for the Deaf.

The outcome was similar to the teams’ first meeting Jan. 14 when MALC stopped the Roadrunners in their tracks, 49-20.

A pair of players whose first names are identically spelled — Natali Handlin and Natali Sainz — proved to be double trouble for the visiting Roadrunners, who fell behind 30-11 halfway through and never recovered. As usual, Handlin paced the Lady Patriots — this time with 17 points — while Sainz chipped in 14.

MALC coach Neil Sherrill, whose squad evened its overall record at 8-8, was happy for Handlin and Summer Zimmerman.

“They both want to play great games because their high school careers are coming to an end,” he said.

Phoenix Day put up a fight at first, keeping the score respectable at 14-8 and then 18-11. But it didn’t take long — with Yhoalibet Keltner and Maisy Mulligan also making significant contributions — for MALC to leave the Roadrunners in the dust. 

The Lady Patriots rattled off 14 unanswered points for a 30-11 bulge at the break.

No matter how many rebounds, steals and shots the Roadrunners amassed, they simply struggled to put the ball through the net.

Not long after intermission, Sherrill swapped out his five starters, but nothing detectable changed on the court. Mulligan snagged a rebound and dropped it in, as the Lady Patriots’ lead swelled to 38-16 to end the third quarter.

During the final frame with a pending victory well in hand, MALC players kept hustling, diving and driving.

Sherrill said Friday’s lopsided affair served a distinctive purpose.

“We used it to work on small things, including our half-court game,” said Sherrill with an eye toward Monday’s visit to River Valley, where his Lady Patriots confront the Dust Devils.

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