SRJC 71, Laney College 46
In the finals of the NorCal Regional Playoffs with the winner earning a berth in the State Championships, the Big 8 Conference Champion Bear Cubs (27-2) hosted the Bay Valley Conference Champion Eagles (23-5) of Laney College. To start the game, Ashleigh Barr tipped the ball to Lucca Lowenberg, who passed ahead to Ciarah Michalik cutting to the basket. Michalik made the layup, and the Bear Cubs never gave up the lead the entire contest. Nearly two minutes later Michalik drew a foul on a drive and made both free throws. The next time on offense, Meredith Gilbertson banked in a 2-footer off of a baseline inbounds pass from Michalik. Kya Pearson made two baskets in a row, cutting the Eagles' deficit to 4-6. The Bear Cubs increased their lead to 15-4 with 2:06 on the clock thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers by Lanie Lincoln and Gilbertson, one free throw by Rose Nevin, and Sheriene Arikat's 16-footer. Semie Brar's field goal with 1:33 left made the Bear Cubs' lead 15-6 by the end of the quarter.
The Bear Cubs started the second quarter with an 11-0 run—Ashleigh Barr's 12-footer, two free throws by Ciarah Michalik, Rose Nevin's 1-footer on a cut to the hoop and assist from Michalik, Michalik's fast break layup off of Lanie Lincoln's long lead pass, and Lucca Lowenberg's 3-pointer at the 5:03 mark. Kya Pearson drained a 3-pointer 11 seconds later. Ashleigh Barr sank a 5-footer off of Sheriene Arikat's assist and banked in a 1-footer off of Lanie Lincoln's baseline inbounds pass. The Eagles scored the next four points on two free throws each by Amira Brown and Kya Pearson. With 1:30 on the clock, Michalik made a back door cut, caught Lanie Lincoln's pass, and banked in the layup while getting fouled. She made the and-one free throw. The next time down she drew another foul and sank both free throws, making the lead 35-13. The Eagles added four more points on one free throw by Jaisa Gamble and Tay Birdtail's long 3-pointer. By halftime the Bear Cubs were ahead 35-17.
Amira Brown scored the first three points of the third quarter on an opening drive and one free throw 70 seconds later. The Bear Cubs missed their first five shots before Lanie Lincoln swished a 3-pointer with 7:40 on the clock. During the next five minutes Jaisa Ganble made three field goals and Kya Pearson one. Meanwhile Lanie Lincoln tallied 10 points for the Bear Cubs on a 3-pointer, a reverse pivot spin shot from the middle of the key, a layup off of Sheriene Arikat's assist, and then turning an interception near midcourt into a 3-pointer from a foot outside the arc. Nearly a minute later Arikat scored on a drive. Jadyn Watson sank a long 3-pointer and Pearson a field goal with 31 seconds left. Ciarah Michalik went to the free throw line with 5 seconds remaining and made just the second. Both teams scored 16 points in the period to make the score 51-33.
Kya Pearson drew a shooting foul on the Eagles' first possession of the fourth quarter and made just one free throw. The Bear Cubs scored the next five points on Ashleigh Barr's 12-footer, Lanie Lincoln's 4-footer on her cut into the key and assist from Alex Ditizio, and one free throw by Lucca Lowenberg. Pearson was successful on a drive at the 7:33 mark. Sixty-two seconds later Lucca Lowenberg got open off a screen, caught Ciarah Michalik's pass, and swished the 3-pointer. About a minute later, Meredith Gilbertson completed a give-and-go play with Ashleigh Barr making the assist pass. After Jaisa Gamble scored inside, Barr banked in a 2-footer off of Gilbertson's assist, and the next time down Lincoln drained her fifth 3-pointer off of Rose Nevin's assist with 4:04 on the clock. The Eagles put together a 6-0 run on steals and layups before Michalik's layup with 1:22 left. In the remaining time Gamble made another layup, Lowenberg sank one free throw, and Meredith Gilbertson put in both of her free throws to make the final score 71-46.
The Eagles came into the game with the highest scoring average in the state of 88.0 ppg and eighth best in steals with 14.7 spg. The Bear Cubs' defensive pressure kept the Eagles from getting into their accustomed offensive flow. The Eagles were able to attempt 78 shots, but they only made 18 of them (23%). Even though the Eagles' defense contributed to the Bear Cubs' season-high 30 turnovers, the hosts were still able to run their offense and sink shots. Five Eagles had been averaging over 10 points per game, but only Kya Pearson (18) and Jasia Gamble (13) reached double figures. Their leading scorer, Amira Brown (21.3 ppg) was held to 7 points.
Lanie Lincoln made 5 out of 6 3-point shots on her way to scoring a season-high 21 points. Ciarah Michalik made 4 field goals and 8 out of 9 free throws for 16 points. Ashleigh Barr registered her 14th double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Meredith Gilbertson added 9 points, Lucca Lowenberg, who was closely guarded the entire game, finished with 8 points, Sheriene Arikat 4, and Rose Nevin 3. Meredith Gilbertson, Ciarah Michalik, and Alex Ditizio each pulled down 8 rebounds. Lanie Lincoln passed for 5 assists. Ashleigh Barr blocked 4 shots and Alex Ditizio 3.
The Bear Cubs (28-2), seeded #2 in the North, play Mt. San Antonio College (23-7), the #3 seed from the South, at 1:00 pm on Friday, March 10 at West Hills College in Lemoore in the first round of the State Championships.