The Bear River girls basketball team advanced one step closer to a Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship Thursday night, as Kaitlyn Reina’s 24 points spurred the Lady Bruins past No. 9 seed Dixon, 57-44, in the second round of the playoffs.
“I didn’t want to let our team down,” Reina said. “My teammates pumped me up. We really pulled together and came out with the win.”
No. 1 seeded Bear River wasn’t able to get off to a 20-3 start like it did Tuesday in the opening round. Instead it was Dixon that came out firing, creating space with ball movement and finding opportunistic shots before Bear River could adjust.
The Lady Rams went up 11-4, but that’s when Reina stepped up her game and led the Lady Bruins on a 10-0 run. Reina dropped in 12 first-quarter points to put her team back on top.
“I just told Reina that she has to be Reina,” said Bear River head coach Jeff Bickmore. “She’s a tough matchup. She uses her quickness in the post to dribble around big defenders and her strength to overpower the smaller ones. Colfax’s coach told me (Dixon) wouldn’t have an answer for her.”
Reina had no trouble making herself available for passes down low despite being double-teamed at times. A couple dribbles and a spin, elevating herself to split defenders, she relentlessly dominated the paint for scores.
“I just had to gather myself and go up strong,” added Reina.
Defensively Bear River turned up the heat in the second quarter, only allowing Dixon to score three points while the Lady Bruins’ offense caught fire and plowed ahead to a 30-16 lead at the break. Savannah Welz hit a pair of 3-pointers and finished with 11 points. Sarah Hagar dropped in nine points to go along with eight boards, but Reina was Bear River’s star attraction, scoring 24 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Maddi Dunn contributed a team-high seven assists.
“We came out a little flat,” said Welz. “Our confidence boosted when Kaitlyn got us going.”
Dixon refused to go away in the second half, but Bear River stayed poised and didn’t let its grip slip away. The Lady Rams opened the third quarter on an 8-2 run led by senior Madison Dwelley who finished with 11 points, seven of which came from the free throw line. Bear River responded with a 3-pointer by Welz and scored a couple more times to lead 40-28 heading to the fourth.
Bear River had been without Reina for the latter part of the third quarter because she went to the bench after picking up her third foul, but she re-entered the game and quickly tossed in another basket down low to remind the Lady Rams a comeback was not going to be in the cards. Dixon knew its time was running out and became extremely aggressive on defense switching to a full court press, which often resulted in it committing fouls.
The game’s physicality made free throws a significant part of the matchup, as the Lady Bruins shot 18-of-28 from the line to maintain their lead, never allowing Dixon to pull closer than eight points. Bear River finished at 35 percent, shooting from the floor, while Dixon was 17-of-25 from the foul line and made just 31 percent of its shots.
“(Dixon) had good athletes,” said Bickmore. “The press was good. We had the lead and tried not to mess up, and things went a little negative.”
Offensive rhythm was nonexistent in many of the game’s final minutes as player after player was sent to the foul line. Teryn Rath, Reina, Lauren Runte, Welz and Cindy Solomon all added clutch free throws down the stretch as they held on to win by 13 points.
“I knew it was going to be a long game when (Dixon) started fouling us with four minutes left,” said Welz.
Next up for the Lady Bruins (25-3) is No. 4 seed Argonaut (29-0) Wednesday at Tokay in the section semifinals.
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, call 530-477-4234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.