Falcons set sights on second NorCal crown
Forget the five previous “playoff” games Forest Lake Christian played, the real playoffs began Thursday night against Sacred Heart Prep – the first team to give the Falcons a run for their money during this playoff season.
However, despite being far from battle-tested, the Falcons leaned on stellar free-throw shooting in the final quarter to hold off the Gators for a 60-48 win and a trip to the Northern California Division V State Championship game.
“It was great to be able to come out and play our best the whole game,” senior forward Brooke Hodges said. “It’s a good feeling to come out with a win tonight. From here on out the teams are better and we know we have to bring our ‘A’ game to every game.”
Despite the fact that Falcons never trailed after sophomore guard Jessie Clough hit a three-pointer two minutes into the game, the outcome of the game was far from decided until Hodges made two free-throws with 1:14 remaining in the game to give Forest Lake Christian a 55-45 lead.
The Gators were perhaps the most physical team, the Falcons have seen in months, giving up no easy passes and rarely an open look at the basket. That same physical play, however, came back to hurt Sacred Heart Prep as the Gators were whistled for 15 more fouls than the Falcons (including the seven fouls committed down the stretch to stop the clock).
Three Gator players fouled out while struggling with foul trouble throughout the entire game, including the team’s best offensive threat Jessica Pecota. Pecota was saddled with two fouls early in the game forcing the Gators to alter some of their offensive sets. Out of the Falcon’s 60 points, 37 points came at the free-throw line.
Forest Lake Christian junior point guard Brittany Allen took the brunt of the Gator’s fouls, as Trinity Prep refused to allow the players guarding Taylor Kilgore and Hodges to help in the lane during penetration, for fear of getting beat by a barrage of three-pointers. This strategy played to Allen’s strengths as she drove the lane at will dishing the ball or drawing fouls.
Hodges scored a game-high 18 points, hitting eight of 10 free-throws and pulling down 12 rebounds. Junior Olympia Jacobs followed closely behind with 16 points while Kilgore added 11 points. Sacred Heart Prep’s Hannah Stephens paced her team with 17 points.
The Falcons (28-5) move on to face Pinewood (24-5) for the NorCal championship game Saturday at 1 p.m. at Delta College.
“The state championship really is on Saturday,” Forest Lake coach Steve Kellar said. “We are pretty confident that whoever faces the SoCal champion (in the state championship game) will win.
“Saturday is going to be really tough – we have a lot of work to do before then, especially with the quick turnaround. Pinewood is the worst matchup for us coming out of the other NorCal semi-final game and is a good, quality program. They have a 6’1″ post player that is very gifted and two top-notch perimeter players.”
CIF State Tournament
Forest Lake Christian Falcons (27-5)
1 p.m. Saturday
Delta College (Stockton)
Tickets: $12 adults, $8 students/seniors
Ticket windows open at noon, with gates opening at 12:15 p.m. The Division V Girls championship game will be followed by the D-V boys title game at 3 p.m., the D-IV girl at 5 p.m. and the D-IV boys championship at 7 p.m. at Delta College.
Directions: Take Highway 99 south. Once reaching Stockton, from Highway 99 take the Hammer Road exit to Pacific Avenue. Free parking available in west lot.
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Highly successful postseason runs come to an end for local Little League teams