Sacramento – Bear River’s bid for an 11th Sac-Joaquin Section girls basketball title fell short Saturday at Sleep Train Arena as Bradshaw Christian topped the Lady Bruins, 50-40, earning its fifth title in six years.
The Lady Pride went 14-for-16 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter and overcame a six-point deficit with seven minutes to play to earn their first Division IV title. Bradshaw Christian had previously won four championships in Division V before being bumped into D-IV last year.
“(Bradshaw Christian) is a really talented team,” Bear River head coach Jeff Bickmore said. “We had a hard time with their penetration, they are very athletic and we had a couple things like turnovers at key times. It was one of those games where they were good and we weren’t able to sustain the scoring. We had to foul at the end and they hit a lot of their free throws, and that was the difference.”
After falling behind in the first quarter, 12-9, the Lady Bruins rallied in the second with 11 points from junior post player Kaitlyn Reina.
Bear River outscored Bradshaw Christian 17-10 in the second, giving them a four-point, 26-22, lead at the half.
In the third was when things got tense. Bradshaw Christian’s top scorer, Erika Bean, went down with an ankle injury after a rebound attempt. Shortly after that Reina went down with an ankle injury of her own. The two teams battled without their top offensive threats to an 8-8 tie in the quarter and Bear River maintained its four point edge at 34-30 heading into the fourth.
A soft hook in the lane from Teryn Rath to start the fourth put Bear River up by six, but that’s when Bradshaw Christian’s Jordyn Bell and Bean, who returned in the fourth, started to make their push. Bean and Bell, both sophomores, combined for eight points in a three minute stretch to put the Lady Pride up 38-36.
That’s when Reina, who was writhing in pain on the floor just a quarter ago, made her return. Her impact was felt immediately as just seconds after entering the game she sank a 3-pointer to give Bear River the 39-38 lead with four minutes remaining.
“She has carried us all year,” Bickmore said of Reina. “I don’t know if there is another girl that I’ve ever coached that would have come back after what she did to her ankle. She was hurting out there and was still willing to come out and play and I can’t say enough about her as a competitor. She plays with the most heart and confidence of any girl I’ve coached and I was really impressed with her ability to come back.”
Although the momentum had swung back in Bear River’s favor, it would soon shift to the Lady Pride. Reina fouled out shortly after sinking the go-ahead 3, and Bear River wouldn’t hit another field goal the rest of the game.
Bradshaw closed the game on a 12-1 run, hitting 10-of-12 free throws down the stretch.
“(Bradshaw Christian) really takes you out of what you want to do,” Bickmore said. “They are going to double team and trap, and we just got to play basketball and move the ball.
“We did an excellent job of not turning the ball over, in the second and third quarters we didn’t turn the ball over once and that is amazing, but in the fourth we had some key turnovers and they hit some big shots and got big offensive rebounds.”
Bean finished with 19 points, including a 9-for-11 performance from the charity stripe, and Ashlee Jones scored 18 to lead the Lady Pride.
Bear River got 19 points from Reina, 16 of which came in the first half. Reina also led Bear River with nine rebounds. Rath added 10 points and six rebounds, and Savannah Welz chipped in six points and seven rebounds while handling most of the point guard duties.
As a team the Lady Bruins only turned the ball over 10 times, but the Lady Pride were even more protective with just eight turnovers. Bear River won the rebounding battle, grabbing 40 to Bradshaw Christian’s 35, but the Lady bruins woeful shooting eventually did them in. Bear River was just 17-of-56 from the field, 4-of-19 from downtown, and 2-for-8 from the charity stripe. The Lady Pride shot 14-for-40 from the field with only one 3-pointer, but connected on 21-of-33 free throws.
Bear River quest for a section title may be over, but its season is not. The Lady Bruins will now await their seeding in the NorCal tournament.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.