Holy Family's Gaby Diaz, right, protects the ball as she looks to make a pass in a 45-34 Holy Family overtime win.

Holy Family's Gaby Diaz, right, protects the ball as she looks to make a pass in a 45-34 Holy Family overtime win. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer / January 24, 2012)

SOUTHWEST GLENDALE — All of those losses that piled up throughout December and into early January are now a distant memory for the members of the Holy Family basketball team.

Since the start of Horizon League play, the Gaels have turned around their fortunes. On Tuesday night, the Gaels found another way to win despite surrendering an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter before going overtime against the defending league champion.

Holy Family turned to a sophomore guard to keep the Gaels heading down the right path.

Alex Mata scored seven of her game-high 16 points in overtime to help host Holy Family record a 45-34 league win against Alverno at Pacific Community Center.

The Gaels, who outscored Alverno, 11-0, in the extra four-minute session, improved to 4-14, 4-1 in league. Alverno remained winless at 0-11, 0-5.

"All of those games were rough for us in December," said Holy Family Coach Ernest Siy, whose team opened the season losing its first 13 games. "When league started, we said we would not let that happen again.

"This was a big win for us. Alverno had momentum going in overtime and give Holy Family credit for coming back."

The Gaels, who completed the two-game season series sweep against the Jaguars, appeared on the verge of a convincing regulation win. However, Holy Family missed two of three free throws in the closing minutes before Alverno's Michelle Lam made a three-pointer as time expired in the fourth quarter.

Needing to regain the momentum it had built through the first three quarters, Holy Family, which is in second place in league behind Bishop Conaty-Loretto, turned to Mata.

The guard didn't disappoint in overtime.

Mata scored on a layup to give the Gaels a 36-34 lead on the Gaels' first possession. She then made a three-pointer on Holy Family's ensuing possession with 3:01 left to make it 39-34. Another layup by Mata with 1:36 left extended the Gaels' lead to 43-34 with 36 seconds remaining.

"We were mad that we had to go into overtime," Mata said. "We had to take the approach that this was our game to win and I was praying that I would have a moment in the game in which I could do something.

"We saw a light at the end. This win can only help us build momentum."

Holy Family led, 24-10, at halftime. However, the Gaels only scored two points in the third quarter, allowing Alverno to chip away at what once appeared to be a promising lead for the Gaels.

"We missed some free throws [in the second half]," said Siy, whose team made two of 10 second-half free-throw attempts. "We came out strong to start the game, but Alverno had more desire and heart in the third quarter and into the fourth quarter.

"We fell asleep. Alex came out in that overtime and came through for us when we needed her to."

Holy Family, which posted a 28-21 road victory against Alverno on Jan. 7, received 10 points, eight rebounds and seven steals from senior guard Gaby Diaz, eight points, 10 rebounds and seven steals from senior forward Elena Lomeli and seven points and seven rebounds from senior forward Jennifer Rodriguez.

Freshman center Erika Winstanley had 12 rebounds for Alverno, which got 12 points from junior guard Vanessa Serrano and 11 points from Lam.