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Redding Christian comeback falls short, Lions fall to Willows 52-46 in Lady Hornet Classic final

The small school stigma can’t apply to the Redding Christian girls basketball team any longer.

Especially after the Lions took down upper division mainstays Enterprise and U-Prep, albeit not at full strength, and pushed a D-IV Willows squad with star talent to the brink of a tournament championship.

Redding Christian trimmed a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to four with less than 10 seconds remaining but couldn’t complete the comeback in a 52-46 loss to Willows in the Lady Hornet Classic final Saturday at Enterprise High’s Manatowa Gymnasium.

Lions head coach Scott Alexander wasn’t sure coming into the year how his team would respond to playing up in the preseason. All five starters from last year’s D-VI championship team return but lack of depth with a freshmen heavy bench concerned him playing against upper division schools.

But what the Lions lack in experience, they make up with heart. And they bring the energy the whole game.

“That’s the only reason we’re in these games because these girls are all-effort all of the time,” Alexander said. “I never have to worry about us coming out and not playing hard.”

The Lions committed four turnovers in the first three minutes and trailed 9-2 until senior guard Sadie Alexander scored 10 straight points, including two 3-pointers, as part of an 11-0 run and led 15-14 after the opening quarter.

Willows senior Meghan Weinrich, voted to the all all-Northern Section team twice, was busy in the first half with 19 of her game-high 27 points and dished to Brieze Martins for a 20-17 lead.

Redding Christian’s Kaylee Jones was removed a few moments later after hitting the back of her head hard on the court. Without Jones, who “plays her role perfectly,” Scott Alexander said, Willows ended the half on a 12-0 run in 4:04 to lead 32-19.

Aleah Matos did everything she could to get the Lions back in it, hitting back-to-back buckets and later a 3-pointer to help Redding Christian trail 39-30 entering the fourth quarter.

Despite Redding Christian senior center Sammie Wunner fouling out with 4:40 left, the Lions cut into the 12-point deficit. Matos made a layup and Willows traded a free throw with an Alexander jumper from downtown, kept alive by two offensive boards, to make it 46-40.

Again, Redding Christian followed Hanna Parisio’s split free throws with a bucket, this time from freshman Bailey Matos to make it a five-point game.

“They’ve offense is awesome, very hard to defend,” said Willows coach Carol Martin. “They executed well and you can tell they’ve played together for a while.

“I’m glad they’re not in our division.”

Weinrich hit the first of two freebies and Redding Christian tried to have an answer. But Alexander’s 3-pointer from the left wing slowly rimmed out, breaking the hearts of the Lion faithful in the process.

“Yeah my heart stopped for a second,” Scott Alexander said. “I told them if they come back to win this game you might make a Disney movie.”

Willows went up eight with 27 seconds left when Kendyl Garcia fired a pass over Courtney Jones to Weinrich under the hoop for a 2-footer.

Alexander, who finished with 17 points, drove the lane for a layup and Aleah Matos stole the ball in the backcourt and dished to Courtney Jones for a quick 2 to put the Lions behind 50-46 with 6.9 seconds left.

But Parisio hit both free throws to ice it.

“This was a great tournament and to play big teams in it and finish off the preseason like this was good for us,” Martin said. “Redding Christian was a tough opponent and very hard to defend.”

Redding Christian hosts division opponent Fall River on Wednesday before playing the following three days in the Etna Tournament to wrap up preseason play. Even after the Lions’ performance against teams at least two divisions higher than them, sitting 6-5 overall and still improving isn’t a bad spot to be in.

“They’re confidence is pretty high right now,” Scott Alexander said.

Willows 14-18-7-11—52
Redding Christian 15-4-11-16—46
Willows: Weinrich 27, Parisio 11, Martins 8, Berens 5.
Redding Christian (6-5): Alexander 17, A. Matos 10, Wunner 9, C. Jones 6, B. Matos 4.
3-pointers—Willows 4: Weinrich (3), Berens (1); Redding Christian 3: Alexander (2), A. Matos (1).

TOURNAMENT FINALS

1st: Willows 52, Redding Christian 46
3rd: Foothill 50, U-Prep 34
5th: Enterprise 55, Del Norte 53
7th: Corning 47, Modoc 32

3rd: Foothill 50, U-Prep 34

The Cougars led 23-10 and kept pace to beat the Panthers and take third place. Emma Roach’s 14 points paced Foothill.

U-Prep was led by Melanie Lindsey, who scored 11 points. Emily Cox chipped in 10 points.

5th: Enterprise 55, Del Norte 53

The Hornets trailed 43-40 entering the fourth quarter but got eight points from Mianna Saechao in the final period and five from Whetstone to pulled out the win in the consolation final. Saechao scored 12, Whetstone added 11 points and K Mendes scored 11 points.

Del Norte’s Clifton scored 24 poitns and Brous scored 15 points.

7th: Corning 47, Modoc 32

The Cardinals led 26-15 at half and never looked back to win in the seventh place game. Shrader scored 17 points to lead Corning.

Brooke Lafferty scored 11 points to lead the Braves.

T.J. is a national-award winning journalist passionate about local news and telling the story no one else knows about. He’s roamed sidelines, baselines and bleachers in the North State since 2010 and is a content producer from sunup to sundown. Sports are a hobby he shares with his wife Tracy where they’ve spent many dates around a field or court of some sort.

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