PREP BASKETBALL: Lady Falcons fall in NorCal title game, ending highly successful season
Lions 72, Falcons 51
FLC: Lily Sween – 17 points, 13 rebounds, 3 steals
FLC: Ali McDaniel – 17 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists
FLC: Amber Jackson – 11 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals
E: Megan Bennett – 17 points
E: Cassidy Gilmore – 14 points, 4 3-pointers
E: Cailey Rizzardo – 12 points
ETNA, Calif. — Forest Lake Christian’s spirited run through the CIF NorCal Division VI girls basketball tournament came to an end Tuesday night, concluding a highly successful season for the Lady Falcons.
“They are just a bunch of girls, who play other sports, coming together to have fun playing the game of basketball,” FLC head coach John McDaniel said after his team lost to the Etna Lions in the NorCal D-VI Championship Game. “Going all the way back to the start of the season, we had some rough games to start … But, the amount of improvement you saw from these sheer athletes was just phenomenal. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team improve as much as I saw this team improve.”
After topping No. 4 seed California School for the Deaf in the first round, and knocking off No. 1 Redding Christian in the semifinals, the No. 5 Lady Falcons (24-7) made the more than 275 mile trip north to Etna, a town with a population of around 720 nestled in Northern California’s Scott Valley, to face the No. 2 seed Lions (25-6).
With the D-VI title on the line, the Lady Falcons played with their usual grit and tenacity but were unable to tame the Lions, and fell, 72-51.
Competing in a packed gym, the Lady Falcons tuned out the boisterous home crowd early on and took a 7-2 lead. But, Etna charged right back and went up 17-16 after one quarter.
In the second, the teams traded buckets and after 3-pointers from Ali McDaniel and Ellie Wood, the Lady Falcons led 24-23. That would be FLC’s last lead as the Lions reeled off nine straight points to close the half with a 32-24 advantage.
“We made a couple mental turnovers,” John McDaniel said. “We tried to force some passes; we tried to force a pass inside and it wasn’t there and that led to I think four points in about 10 seconds, and we were down four at the time, and then we were down eight going into the half.”
Etna maintained the momentum after the break and opened the second half on a 9-2 run to push the lead to 15. After an Amber Jackson lay in and a Lily Sween 3-pointer, the Lady Falcons cut the deficit to 12, but would get no closer the rest of the way.
“In the second half I thought the game got really physical,” said John McDaniel. “Our girls quite frankly were not used to that physical of play. They beat us up pretty good, not in a bad way, but they were bruisers and they beat us up pretty good.”
Leading the Lady Falcons was Sween, a talented senior forward who tallied 17 points, 13 rebounds and three steals. Junior guard Ali McDaniel added 17 points to go with six rebounds and six assists. Jackson, a junior guard, followed with 11 points, five rebounds and three steals.
Etna took the D-VI crown behind a balanced effort which had five players score in double figures. Megan Bennett led all Lion scorers with 17. Cassidy Gilmore followed with 14, including four made 3-pointers. Caliey Rizzardo notched 12. Halliday Hubbard tallied 11. And, Jessica Dean netted 10.
The Loss for the Lady Falcons concludes a season which started out a bit bumpy at 4-4 overall, but they went on to win 20 of their next 23. They claimed their second straight Central Valley California League championship and reached both the Sac-Joaquin Section D-VI and CIF NorCal D-VI title games along the way.
“As far as a team goes, you just can’t beat the camaraderie, friendship and faith that they share,” said John McDaniel.
The Lady Falcons will return seven of their nine players next season, and bid farewell to seniors Sween and Breezy Adams.
“Lily and Breezy were team leaders,” McDaniel said. “Breezy is a leader not only on the court, but off as well. Lily didn’t play last year, but came in and was huge this year. She had double-doubles most nights, led our team in scoring a lot of nights, and she’s a huge puzzle piece that we will have to fill. We’re definitely going to miss those two, and their contributions on and off the court.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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