The Desert Vista girls basketball program knew all season that Simone Westbrook wasn't going to come walking through the door.
Yet, with 2 minutes and 7 seconds left in the first quarter Tuesday, Westbrook, wearing her familiar No. 20, went crashing through the gym doors in the Storm Center while making a defensive play.
Funny how fate works out sometimes as Westbrook's first eligible game - after sitting out the mandatory 10 days for transferring - came at Desert Vista, a game won by Chandler 61-39.
"It didn't matter to me who the first game was against," said Westbrook, who started for and was the leading scorer the last two years for Desert Vista. "I just wanted to get out there and play and get it out of the way. It just happened to come against them."
The anticipation was the most dramatic part of the game, waiting to see how everyone would react and if the game would be emotionally charged.
In reality, the game for the Thunder (9-10, 1-2) was no different than any other. They played tough defense, gave themselves a chance to win against a superior team, but came up short.
"You always have rivals and Chandler is one of ours," Desert Vista coach Rachel Proudfoot said. "It added to it. The crowd was into and the girls were into it more. I wish high schools games were like this all of the time."
Desert Vista entered the fourth quarter down 36-31 after holding Chandler (14-4, 2-0) to 16 total points over the second and third quarters and closed within 36-32 after Jaymee Brugman grabbed an offensive rebound, was fouled and made a free throw.
Westbrook, a 5-foot-10 junior guard, scored on a coast-to-coast layup on the Wolves next possession, which was followed up by a time out by Chandler coach Zon Thompson. Chandler scored the next two baskets and never looked back with a 23-7 run to close out the game.
"We really didn't have an answer for it," Proudfoot said of the 6-0 run that pushed it back out to 42-32 with 6:30 left. "Our press break was working fine. I will mention our bigs were flashing well right before that, but after they were watching and it hurt us in those three possessions right there."
After that it was pretty much the Wolves trying to get Westbrook in the flow of different lineups.
"We had good chemistry and flow the first and fourth quarters," Thompson said. "When we work together like that we are tough to beat. We added a new element with Simone and it will take some time."
Westbrook, who came off the bench, finished with 6 points (2 of 7 shooting), three steals, two assists and four turnovers.
"It was my first game I was a little too pumped up," said Westbrook, who averaged 16.5 points a game last season for the Thunder. "I was too anxious and trying too hard. Coach told me to slow down and let the game come to you and that's what I started to do."
Desert Vista sophomore guard Kylie Butler, who was locked up with her former teammate a lot, said once the game started none of the outside stuff mattered.
"We played our own game and didn't worry about anything," said Butler, who finished with 11 points, 5 five rebounds and three assists.
Butler was backed by Brugman, who had 12 points and six rebounds, while freshman guard Emily Wolph added eight points.
Chandler was led by Je Zhe' Newton's 16 points and eight rebounds, and Dezirae Elias had 16 points, three rebounds, four assists and five steals.
The story, however, was Westbrook.
She had planned on sitting out her entire junior year after verbally committing to Arizona State to work on her individual game, mainly her point guard skills and shooting. It wasn't anything against anyone within the Desert Vista program.
It was decision her and the family made, but when the family moved from Maricopa to Chandler she put in for a transfer right after Christmas break started.
"It was a win-win to go to Chandler," she said. "So why sit out when I could get out there and play?"
She was happy that her first game is over with along with the first meeting with the Thunder.
"It was good seeing them again," she said. "I knew they weren't going to let this game come easy, which is what I like. We are all competitors and that's what I wanted to do. There were no grudges held."
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