PREP BASKETBALL: Falcons rise above Capitals, earn spot in D-VI title game (PHOTO GALLERY)
FLC: A. McDaniel – 11 points, 12 steals, 11 rebounds, 6 assists
FLC: A. Jackson – 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals
FLC: S. Whaley – 15 points, 4 rebounds, 4 steals
FLC: Ellie Wood – 7 points, 7 rebounds, 7 steals
FLC: J. Dreschler – 4 points, 10 rebounds, 6 steals
“Hard work,” is belted out in unison by the Forest Lake Christian Lady Falcons before they take the court.
“Push it, push it” is the directive from head coach John McDaniel as his team races up and down the court, using their suffocating defense and up-tempo offense to frustrate opponents.
There is simply no let down for the Lady Falcons.
“It’s more than normal people should be able to do,” McDaniel said of his team’s intensity and effort. “It’s insane and it’s tough to deal with.”
With their signature high-intensity defense and an opportunistic offense, the No. 2 Lady Falcons outpaced No. 3 Sacramento Adventist, 57-35, Monday night and punched their ticket to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI Girls Basketball Championship Game.
It’s the third straight trip to the D-VI title game for the Lady Falcons (22-5) who will face off with the No. 1 Valley Christian Lions (23-1) at 10 a.m. Thursday at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. It’s a rematch of last season’s D-VI championship contest at Golden 1 in which Valley Christian won, 56-50.
“In years past we haven’t come out with the intensity that we have this year,” said senior guard Amber Jackson, who leads FLC in scoring this season with 21.5 points per game. “If we come out and play strong defense and bring intensity, hopefully we can get the W.”
Strong defense and intensity wasn’t in short supply for FLC in their semifinal win over Sac Adventist (22-5). The Lady Falcons held the Capitals to just two first quarter points, and 10 total in the first half.
Leading the defensive charge was Ali McDaniel, who tallied a triple-double with 11 points, 12 steals and 11 rebounds. The senior guard also doled out six assists in the win.
“The pace was the difference,” she said. “It’s hard to match the kind of up-and-down that we do.”
After taking a 29-10 lead into halftime, the Lady Falcons kept the same pace and intensity in the second half, extending their lead to 48-24 at the end of three.
That’s when the directive from John McDaniel turned from “push it” to “patience” as his team took its foot off gas ever so slightly down the stretch.
Leading all FLC scorers was Jackson with 18 points. She also grabbed eight rebounds, nabbed three steals and doled out three assists.
Sadie Whaley followed with 15 points. The freshman guard, who averaged just above eight points per game during the regular season, is averaging 17.5 points per game in the playoffs.
Junior guard Ellie Wood chipped in seven points, seven rebounds and seven steals.
Senior post player Jessi Dreschler was strong in the paint, scoring four points, pulling down 10 rebounds and snatching six steals.
As a team, FLC notched 31 steals in the contest and held their opponent to less than 40 points for the ninth straight game. It’s also the ninth game in a row in which the Lady Falcons won by 20-or-more points. On the season, they are averaging 55.7 points per game while allowing just 33.4 per game.
“We’re a bunch of guards, we swarm because we know we can’t let the ball get inside,” said John McDaniel. “When they are playing defense with their feet, and they’re moving, and they’re aggressive, and they’re attacking the ball, it’s a tough thing to overcome.”
FLC will now take their attacking style to Golden 1 Center, where they will face a Valley Christian team that won the Sacramento Metropolitan Athletic League and is riding a 21-game win streak. The Lady Falcons and Lions met early in the season Dec. 6 in Roseville with FLC pulling out an overtime victory, 63-58, which stands as Valley Christian’s only loss so far this season.
“We got to leave our hearts out there,” said John McDaniel of what it will take to bring home the Section title banner. “They’ve been doing it for the last 10 games and I think they’re ready.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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