Walking to the sideline after being whistled for her fifth foul, Bear River senior Lauren Juric couldn’t keep the thought from crossing her mind.
“It’s all my fault,” Juric said after she and her fellow Bruins had fallen to Valley Christian of San Jose 43-33 Saturday night, in a NorCal regional semifinal of the CIF State Basketball Championships.
Juric had fouled out of the contest just as the Bruins had battled back into the game. After building a 15 point lead late in the third quarter, Victory Christian’s advantage was whittled down to 33-29 when Bear River’s leading scorer was called for her fifth foul.
“I tried to keep my head up,” Juric said, “but it’s hard.”
Though she was blaming herself as a key reason for the loss in the locker room following the game, she also was the main reason the Bruins had come within striking distance down the stretch.
Bear River (25-8) trailed 27-12 with little more than two minutes remaining in the third quarter. But the two-time Division IV Sac-Joaquin Section champions roared back in the final quarter, led by Juric, their 6-foot-2-inch senior center, to come within three points of the Warriors.
“Not at all. I was not surprised at all they came back,” said Valley Christian coach Richard Harris. “I knew number 31 (Juric) was really good and I actually told the girls at halftime, she would be their go-to player. I knew they’d make a comeback, or at least attempt to.”
Chandré Uno, Bear River’s junior point guard, scored on a lay-up and then beat Valley Christian’s full-court press to dish off an assist to Juric, who was fouled on the play. After Juric sank the free throw, Bear River got another bucket before the end of the third quarter, a rebound basket from senior Rachel Harter, to cut the lead to 28-19 after three.
Harter opened the final quarter with an assist to classmate Katie Thompson, which was followed by Juric bucket of a spin move to bring the Bruins within five at 28-23 with 6:52 remaining.
“None of us were going to give up,” Juric said. “Not like that. We’re not a team that would give up. And for the seniors, we knew it was our last year.”
Valley Christian came back with a 3-pointer from A.J. Newton that ended a dry spell that lasted nearly five minutes for the Warriors, making things 31-23, but back came the Bruins and Juric.
After scoring on a reverse lay-up, Juric followed with a turnaround jumper, on which she was fouled. The free throw pulled Bear River within three, 31-28 with 3:38 remaining. Juric then hit one of two free throws to make things 33-29 before she was whistled for her final foul.
From there, Bear River stayed within four at 37-33 with 1:41 remaining, but came no closer to the Warriors, who sank six of 10 free throws in the final minute to seal the win.
In all, Juric scored 11 of Bear River’s 17 points during the comeback. The University of California, Davis recruit finished her final game in a Bear River jersey with 19 points and nine rebounds.
“She’s by far the most dominant offensive player we have,” said Bear River coach Jeff Bickmore. “They did a good job on her. They did made her work for everything.
“I’ve coached Lauren for four years. I’ve coached Harter for three years … We’re going to miss all of our seniors. Knowing I can’t go to practice Monday is the weirdest thing. We’re going to miss them all.”
Harter had four points and nine rebounds for Bear River. Thompson finished with six points and four rebounds, while senior classmate Erin Noud added four rebounds for the Bruins.
“We were talking about that before the game; that we would just keep fighting and leave it all out there,” said Harter. “These girls, they’re some of my best friends and it’s been an amazing year.”
Valley Christian (23-12) was led by Newton and Tory Walker, who each finished with 13 points. The Warriors’ full-court defense helped force 18 Bear River turnovers on the night, including 11 in the first half as Valley Christian built its 21-12 advantage at the break.
The Warriors, who won their first Central Coast Section championship this season, will play top-seeded St. Patrick/St. Vincent of Vallejo in the NorCal regional championship at 7 p.m. March 17.
To contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4240.
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