PALO CEDRO – There was a sense of deja vu Saturday night as No. 2 seeded Redding Christian Lions and No. 3 Forest Lake Falcons battled to the buzzer in the CIF NorCal Division VI semifinals.
The two teams met 370 days ago in the same D-VI semifinals and two clutch Alicia McDaniel free throws with five seconds remaining sent Forest Lake Christian to its second straight win over Redding Christian – this year 43-38.
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Last year, the two squared off in a nail-biting 48-47 Falcons’ win. Saturday, it was Alicia McDaniel who sealed the win with 23 points on an efficient 8-of-12 from the field.
The Lions jumped out to a 4-0 lead as Sadie Alexander found Sammie Wunner for a layup and assisted Kaylee Jones on a jumper. Though it was the Falcons who took a 12-9 lead at the end of the first outscoring the Lions 8-5.
Aleah Matos’ quick 3-pointer to open the second period was followed by an Alexander 3-pointer giving the Lions a five-point lead. Yet, every time the Lions seemed to have momentum, the Falcons had an answer. McDaniel went to work in the second period, splitting a pair of free-throws, converting a 3-point play and finishing a layup to swing the momentum back to the Falcons with a five-point lead at the break.
The third quarter remained the same as both teams would exchange punches. However, the Falcons kept a five-point advantage heading into the final stretch.
“It was definitely a battle,” Lions coach Scott Alexander said. “They did a great job playing man-to-man defense and really tried to take us out of what we were doing. They forced a lot of uncharacteristic turnovers for us. That was the difference. They did what we do to a lot of teams.
“I’m so proud of these girls, obviously we would have liked to move on. The seniors and this team have had such an incredible four years. I’m really proud of them. They represent themselves on and off the court. Just in an amazing way.”
In the fourth, Redding Christian struggled to find its shot and Forest Lake Christian intended on putting the game out of reach as they built an 11-point lead.
But it was the Lions who put together a final push. Finally getting a field goal to go with a little over a minute to go. Two layups by Bailey Matos fueled the Lions. A loose ball foul sent the Falcons to the line, but missed the front end of the one-and-one. But the Lions answered with misses on the other end. After more missed Forest Lake free throws, Matos hit a jumper and Kaylee Jones followe with a putback to cut the deficit to three with 40 seconds remaining.
Redding Christian came up with a steal, but would turn it back over in transition, setting up McDaniel’s sealing free throws.
“The whole season we went into this saying ‘It’s together or nothing,’ “said Lions’ senior Courtney Jones. “I believe we stuck to that the entire season and we worked together. We worked hard every practice and every game. This is an amazing season to end on.”
Redding Christian ends its season at 22-6, going 8-0 in league play and winning the second of back-to-back Northern Section Division VI titles.
No.3 Forest Lake Christian 43, No.2 Redding Christian 38
Forest Lake Christian 12-11-11-9-53
Redding Christian 11-8-10-9-48
Lions (22-6)- A.Matos 12, Wunner 10, Alexander 6, B. Matos 6, K. Jones 4.
Falcons (25-5)– McDaniel 23, Jackson 8, Wood 7, Dreschler 3, Whaley 2.
3-pointers– FLC 3 ( McDaniel 2, Wood.) RC 4 ( Matos 3, Alexander.)