Fight to the finish
SACRAMENTO – Forest Lake Christian’s streak of consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championships ended at three Friday night at ARCO Arena, where the No. 5-seeded Falcons lost 56-49 to No. 6 Modesto Christian.
The loss does not end Falcons girls’ season, though. By making it to the section final they guaranteed themselves a spot in the NorCal Regional tournament, the winner of which advances to the state final. The NorCal begins Tuesday, but by losing the section Forest Lake Christian will play on the road in the first round.
Modesto Christian’s lead stayed within five points for most of the first half, although the Falcons went ahead briefly in the second quarter, 15-14. Monique Gallardo hit a 3-pointer to put the Crusaders back ahead with 2:45 left in the second quarter – and they never trailed again.
It was at the end of the third quarter when Forest Lake Christian lost control.
With 11 seconds left in the third Modesto Christian’s Queen Willard made a layup to move her team’s lead to three points at 37-34. On the ensuing in-bound play Andrea Hernandez stole the pass and scored with one second left, leaving the Falcons’ deficit at five points entering the fourth quarter.
Forest Lake Christian did not score in the fourth quarter until it trailed 44-34.
“When we came out, we wanted to win our fourth straight,” senior Taylor Kilgore said. “It stings.”
Kilgore scored a team-high 16 points.
It appeared as though Forest Lake Christian conceded the loss before the game was over. The Falcons neither fouled to stop the clock in the final two minutes nor played aggressively on defense. Several late-game turnovers didn’t help them.
“I don’t think we gave up at all,” sophomore Kylie Miraldi said. “We were working hard through the whole game, but we started rushing it late.”
Miraldi led her team with 14 rebounds and also scored 12 points.
For players on the 2004 Modesto Christian team that lost to Forest Lake 58-44 in the section final, this was retribution.
“It felt like it was personal,” said Crusader junior Andrea Hernandez, who led the game in scoring with 24 points. “I came out and made it personal.”
Gallardo finished 17 points for Modesto Christian, which won its first section title.
“It’s amazing,” senior Crusader Brittany Top said. “It’s great to make history.”
Both the Falcons and the Crusaders won two straight upsets to make it to the final. Modesto Christian beat No. 3 Woodland Christian and No. 2 Capital Christian; Forest Lake Christian beat No. 4 Turlock Christian and No. 1 Sacramento Waldorf.
“We’re not going to let (the loss) devastate us,” Forest Lake Christian coach Steve Kellar said. “The world does not revolve around one win or one loss. What the world revolves around is how you respond to a win or a loss.
“I’m happy because of the way we responded. We’re confident we can go on and win.”
Forest Lake Christian also responded well early in the game after turning the ball over on four of its first five possessions. The Falcons scored six unanswered points to tie the Crusaders early in the second quarter at 10-10.
The turnovers were their downfall.
“We outshot them, we outrebounded them, but we turned it over 21 times,” Kellar said.
The Falcons had a better field goal percentage (38 percent) than Modesto Christian (37 percent), and had two more rebounds with 37. But the Crusaders had four fewer turnovers.
Few likely expected Forest Lake Christian to make it this far this year after losing key players from last year’s section championship team, but the Falcons believe there’s no reason why they can’t revert to their winning ways by Tuesday night.
“I think we can make it all the way,” Miraldi said.
CRUSADERS 56, FALCONS 49
Modesto Christian 10 15 14 17 – 56
Forest Lake Christian 8 10 16 15 – 49
MODESTO CHRISTIAN (56): Jordan Baca 1 1-6 3, Andrea Hernandez 9 3-5 22, Katie Ratfield 1 2-2 4, Monique Gallardo 6 0-0 17, Queen Willard 2 1-4 6.
FOREST LAKE CHRISTIAN (49): Jessica Clough 0 1-2 1, MacKenzie Deneen 3 0-0 6, Kylie Miraldi 5 4-8 14, Katie Fletcher 1 2-3 4, Taylor Kilgore 5 1-1 14, Tess Reed 1 0-2 2, Brittany Allen 2 4-6 8.
3-pointers: Modesto Christian 7 (Gallardo 5, Hernandez 1, Willard 1). Forest Lake Christian 3 (Kilgore 3). Fouls: Modesto Christian 17, Forest Lake Christian 13. Fouled out: M – Hernandez. Technical fouls: none.
To contact Jeff Miller, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4240.
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