Saddle up for semis |

Saddle up for semis

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

Several players on the Bear River girls basketball team have been here before.

Sitting just two victories away from a Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship.

In fact, it was just last season that the Lady Bruins’ hopes for a section title were dashed by Calaveras in the section semifinals.

Today when the Lady Bruins, five of whom were on last year’s team, take the floor at Tokay High School in Lodi, the task in front of them will be no easier than last season as they face the undefeated Argonaut Lady Mustangs.

The No. 4 seed Argonaut is currently on a 29-game winning streak, including playoff wins against Riverbank and Ripon to reach the semifinals.

The Lady Mustangs won the Mother Lode League by a three-game margin over Calaveras and led their league in both points scored and points allowed.

The stingy Argonaut defense gave up just 28.4 points per league game while scoring an average of 55.4 per league game.

The Lady Mustangs are spurred on by their talented guard play, said Bear River head coach Jeff Bickmore.

“They got really good guards,” he said. “They shoot it well, they go to the basket well, they handle the ball, they’re quick, they’re really steady, they’re a good solid team, and you can tell they have played together a lot and play really well together.”

The Lady Mustangs boast four seniors and six juniors on their 11-person roster, eight of whom played varsity last season.

But there is a reason the Lady Bruins were granted the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Facing a much more difficult schedule, Bear River went 25-3 and won a share of the Pioneer Valley League title. A share also went to Colfax, which is on the other side of the D-IV bracket and will take on Bradshaw Christian in the other Wednesday semifinal matchup.

Bear River’s defense isn’t as stingy as Argonaut’s but can hang with most teams. The Lady Bruins have allowed just 33.5 points per game this season while putting up 58.3 per game.

Through the first two rounds of the playoffs, Bear River is being led by junior Kaitlyn Reina, who is averaging a double-double in the postseason.

The powerful post player is pulling down an average of 10.5 rebounds per game and putting in 18.5 points per game in her first postseason.

But with a veteran team like Bear River’s, any player on any given night can be the hero, said Bickmore.

“Its always important when you get to this level to have certain players step up,” Bickmore said. “We never know game to game who is going to get the open looks, who’s going to get the opportunities, and we just hope the ones that do, step up, hit the shots and make the plays when they get their chances.”

Bear River has several talented scoring options with Savannah Welz, Teryn Rath Cindy Solomon and Sarah Hagar all averaging more than seven points per game. The likes of Maddi Dunn, Lauren Runte, and Jennifer Alberts all add possible scoring options as well.

Bickmore said his team has had good practices this week and feels his team is prepared to hand Argonaut its first loss of the season.

“They are going to be tough,” he said. “We have prepared the best we can for them and hopefully it’s good enough to get a win.”

The semifinal bout tips off at 4 p.m. today at Tokay High School in Lodi.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email

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