There will be no twiddling of thumbs for Bear River, only added intensity.
Now that the Lady Bruins basketball team has pushed itself to the top of the D-IV Sac-Joaquin Section playoff bracket with its 22-3 overall record and No. 1 seed, all it has to do is wait.
Easier said than done.
“We’re going to get some of the guys to come out (to practice) and get the athleticism up,” said Bear River head coach Jeff Bickmore, who was hoping to play a bit sooner. “It gives us some time to work on things we need to do before playoffs start. It is what it is. It gives a chance to go watch games Friday.”
Waiting can be cruel for a squad that is so full of energy, with potential bursting at the seams. Bear River won’t hit the court again until Thursday, a full 10 days after its final game of the regular season. The Lady Bruins will know their second round opponent at the conclusion of Tuesday night’s No.8/No.9 matchup between San Juan (17-9) and Calaveras (16-11).
“I feel confident,” said senior Kaitlyn Reina, who leads the team, averaging 15 points per game. “We worked really hard to get here and be the No. 1 seed. All our dedication had paid out. We definitely want to make it to Arco. That’s our goal, for sure.”
No matter which team Bear River faces to begin the playoff journey, the girls understand that this is their time to shine and validate what they have worked so hard to achieve. The road to Sleep Train Arena begins at Jack R. McCrory Gymnasium, which will provide a valuable home court advantage.
“It’s nice to be home,” added Bickmore. “Plus if we have a crowd, that’s worth some points for us. We had a good season to put us in position to go far. Now it’s just a matter of executing and playing well.”
From the beginning of the season, the vibe surrounding Bear River was all about how this is their year. Six seniors strong and now a Pioneer Valley League title to boast about, the team has lived up to all expectations, scoring 53.4 points per game while allowing just 32.4, but come playoff time, every opponent has earned its place and anything is possible.
“We’re focusing really hard on the basics and continuing to get better, even though this is the postseason,” said senior Teryn Rath, who is the team’s second-leading scorer and leading rebounder with nine per game. “We expect every team is going to come out hard, and there’s always the possibility of an upset. As a senior I want to make sure I give it my all and leave it all on the court and have no regrets.”
No question, the bitter taste of defeat in last year’s section championship versus Bradshaw Christian has made the Lady Bruins stronger and more determined to get back. This year’s playoff run offers a fitting avenue with Bradshaw Christian (16-6) owning the No. 4 seed, which sets up the possibility of a rendezvous in the semifinals.
“I think it would be fun to play (Bradshaw),” said senior Lauren Runte. “ We want to beat them. We all want to finish strong, be successful and play our hearts out.”
In the world of sports, it’s often said, “to be the best you have to beat the best,” and Bear River certainly appears ready for any tall task that comes its way. It’s not all going to come down to physical preparedness, though. A lot of it is simply desire and being hungrier than everyone else.
“We all really want it,” said senior Maddi Dunn. “We’re so used to practice, practice, game — practice, practice, game. We just got to get in there and be prepared mentally for everything that gets thrown at us.”
Other top-tier teams within the D-IV bracket that may very well be on a collision course with Bear River include No. 3 seed Colfax (16-10), whom the Lady Bruins know very well, and No. 2 seed West Campus (16-6) of the Golden Empire League, which is riding an eight-game winning streak into the postseason.
“We’re expecting to do well like last year,” said senior Michelle Taylor. “We’re having some other players come and help us in practice with breaking press. We know we’ll see that with all the good teams.”
The Lady Bruins, playoff saga begins at 7 p.m. Thursday at Jack R. McCrory Gymnasium.
Brian Shepard is a freelance sports writer who contributes to The Union regularly.