Sure it took a little time to shake off the rust after their first round bye, but from the moment the Lady Bruins took the court the Lady Spartans were under siege.
With Jack R. McCrory Gymnasium backed by BruinNation and adoring fans, Bear River’s seniors exerted standout performances and walloped San Juan, 57-25, to advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section D-IV semifinals.
“I thought (time off) would affect us a bit,” said senior Maddi Dunn, who dropped in 12 points in the first half on her way to finishing with 14 points, four boards, three assists and a pair of steals. “(San Juan) left us open shots but they just didn’t fall. We brought it back though and picked up speed, made less mistakes and fine-tuned our playing.”
Bear River opened the game on a 5-0 run with a quick steal and score by senior Kaitlyn Reina, followed by a 3-pointer from Jenn Alberts at the top of the key. The Lady Bruins struggled with open looks for much of the contest however as San Juan’s two-three zone coverage forced them to score from the perimeter. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when they were finally able to break through and hammer the nails in the coffin with a 19-3 run.
“It was kind of weird since we hadn’t played in two weeks,” said Reina, who tossed in a team-high 15 points to go with 19 boards, four steals and three assists. “We finally started making more shots and got our mojo going. It definitely helped us being at home with the sixth man. It makes a difference.”
The Lady Bruins most certainly won the battle of the boards, out-hustling the Lady Spartans under the hoop for prime position. Seniors Kaitlyn Reina and Teryn Rath were basketball beasts roaming freely in their domain. Both were in the mix almost every time the ball was up for grabs. The two seniors combined for 29 boards, more than San Juan grabbed the entire game. Their physicality didn’t leave the Lady Spartans much elbow room, or hope for that matter, as Bear River took a 29-16 lead into the locker room.
“(San Juan’s) kids sat in zone and challenged us with outside shots,” said Bear River head coach Jeff Bickmore. “They did a good job and kept it close. I think we shot more 3s in a game than we’ve shot all year.”
Defensively, Bear River took it up a notch. San Juan’s top scorer was senior Monia Alexander, who had just eight points. Nobody established rhythm though and the squad failed to score in the double digits in any quarter, only adding three points the entire fourth quarter even after the Lady Bruins were able to get everyone off the bench to share the playoff triumph.
Leading 38-22 entering the fourth quarter, the game felt closer than it actually was, but that’s when Bear River began to click. Senior Lauren Runte started things off with a 3-pointer. Dunn would cut to the hoop for the next basket and Rath put up another score with a give and go from Reina. Cracks that weren’t there in the first half were now gaping wide and Bear River didn’t waste any time or opportunities.
“We got warmed up and got into the game more,” said Alberts, who was one of three Bruins to chip in six points. “It’s good to have a game not as challenging so we can get back into it.”
Sophomore Savannah Wirth contributed a pair of 3s off the bench and Runte also finished with six adding one from downtown. Rath ended the night with four points to go with 10 boards, two steals and two assists. As always, her presence down low served to be a crucial component to the team’s success.
The Lady Bruins (23-3) will face off against defending Section champ Bradshaw Christian (18-6) in the semifinals Wednesday at Tokay High School in Lodi.