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Enterprise runs to sixth section title game in seven years with 63-55 semifinal win over Chico

Enterprise senior Mianna Saechao led a second-half comeback at the second-seeded Hornets beat Chico 63-55 on Tuesday to advance to Friday's Northern Section Division III finals against Pleasant Valley. Saecaho had a team-high 19 points in the win. (Photo by Mike Daly / Shasta County Sports)

Basketball is a game of runs. However, the timing of those runs also is crucial to the equation.

The Enterprise girls basketball team used a 19-4 run over the third quarter to wrestle away a six-point halftime Chico edge and then held on in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter as the Panthers tried a counter run in the Hornets’ 63-55 Northern Section Division III semifinal win on Tuesday at Manatowa Gymnasium.

No. 2 Enterprise (19-11) plays top-seeded Pleasant Valley (15-11), a last-second 50-49 winner over Shasta, as the bracket went chalk. The title game is 2:30 p.m. Friday at Butte College.

All postseason action is presented by Redding Rancheria.

After a first half that featured 24 fouls, 36 free throws (24 makes) and took nearly 45 minutes in real time, the Panthers scored the first four points of the period in the first 90 seconds on a paint-bucket from Talysha Wilkerson and a steal and coast-to-coast transition layup from freshman Campbell Vieg.

Then nothing as the Panthers’ shots came up short and the Hornets worked on the defensive glass to create transition chances on the other end.

“We challenged the senior leaders at halftime and this is what I said ‘If this is your last half of basketball, how would you play; how hard would you play?’ ” Enterprise coach Anthony Williams said.

“I think those two (Mianna Saechao and Kylie Mendes) did a great job and showed up. Kylie going and getting rebounds, Mianna fighting and taking of the ball, getting us in our offense; things she’s not accustomed to because Alissa (Terras) is kind of hurt. For them to go out there and show ‘Hey, we got you, coach. We got you, team’ is pretty cool to see.

Saechao, who finished with a team-high 19 points started the 19-0 run with a pair of free throws, followed by a Mendes right-corner 3-pointer. Jacey Whetstone’s low-post bucket cut the Chico lead to 40-38 before Mendes’ grabbed a defensive board and went the other way for a transition layup and a 40-all tie. She added a fast break layup off a Saechao board before sophomore Heather Alexander grabbed a steal and turned it into another transition score and a 44-40 lead. A Chico turnover led to another Mendes score and Saechao capped the period off with a top-of-the-key 3-pointer that had money written on it as soon as she released it and Enterprise led 49-40 heading into the fourth quarter.

“We didn’t score (much) in the third and allowed emotions to set in. It’s a fine line between allowing emotions to dictate your play and using that to fuel your play. I think that’s the way that third quarter went and it tilted the scale,” Chico coach Chris Nixon said.

The Hornets would extend the lead to 55-44 on Saechao’s layup of a wrap-around inbounds play with 6 minutes remaining before Alexander added to it with a toe-on-the-line two-pointer on the next Enterprise possession that saw four offensive rebounds and a saving jump ball tie-up that kept the rock with the Black and Gold.

“We knew we’re not going to take a loss easily, we weren’t going to give up,” Saechao said.

But the first-half foul trouble came back to hurt, temporarily, the Hornets as Alexander and Saechao picked up their fourth fouls within 10 seconds of one another. With Saechao on the bench at the 2:54 mark, the Panthers mounted one final assault down 57-48.

Kinney hit two free throws before Sophie Sims, who scored a game-high 22, added four straight points on a transition layup before a swiped and score cut the Enterprise edge to 57-52 with 2:11 left and the Hornets forced to bring Saechao back on the floor.

When Vieg picked a Hornets’ pocket and took it the other way, she not only scored the layup, but was fouled. When she hit the and-one, the Panthers were down two, 57-55 with 1:45 left.

But a rushed 3-point shot by Kinney led to a fast-break opportunity that saw Saechao fouled on the attempt. She sank both ends as the Hornets hit 6-of-7 free throws  in the final minute to ice the game and send themselves back to defend their D-III title.

“I told them the storm was going to come from them and I thought we weathered the storm,” Nixon said. “At the end of the it comes down to making and missing and they capitalized at the end.”

The Hornets are trying for their third title in the past seven years, with crowns coming last season and in 2013-14 with a 59-36 win over Red Bluff. Enterprise has been in the finals in six of the past seven seasons.

“We’ve been talking about working to get back into the section title game all year,” Williams said. “That’s all we’ve cared about and to go down early, have starters go down early due to fouls and to have other girls, the young kids, step up and produce is incredible”

Chico – 17-19-4-15 – 55
Enterprise – 11-19-19-14 – 63
No. 3 Panthers (16-13) – Wilkerson 6, Kinney 6, Frazier 8, Vieg 13, Sims 22.
No. 2 Hornets (19-11) – N. Mendes 1, Phan 1, Saeturn 2, K. Mendes 10, Alexander 10, Terras 14, Saechao 19.
3-pointers – CHS –  4: Kinney, Sims (3) ; EHS – 7: K. Mendes, Terras (3), Saechao (3).

Aaron Williams has been involved in the North State sports scene for nearly two decades. He spent eight years as the Sports Editor for the local newspaper and another four more as the voice of high school football on the radio. Williams has coached various sports at the high school level over the past decade, most recently at Shasta High, and is also the public address announcer for the Shasta College football and basketball teams.

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