The Redding Christian girls basketball team has a chance to enter uncharted waters Saturday by reaching the CIF NorCal Division VI finals with a victory. But they must first beat Forest Lake Christian – the team that ended the Lions’ year last season with a 48-47 upset of top-seeded Redding Christian.
In order to get the rematch with the Falcons, Redding Christian had to get past No. 7 Tomales on Wednesday.
Over the first four-plus minutes of Redding Christian’s CIF NorCal Division VI opener, the Lions were 0-for-10 from the field.
Some misses were chip shots; some from range. All were good shots. They just didn’t fall.
That changed when Lions’ center Sammie Wunner finally took the lid off the bucket at the 3-minute mark of the opening quarter and the Lions scored 31 points over the next 11 minutes to take a lead it would never relinquish en route to a 54-39 home win Tuesday over the Braves. All playoff coverage is presented by Redding Rancheria.
The win pits the Lions and Falcons in the semis for the second straight year with the winner advancing to Tuesday’s NorCal D-VI finals against No. 5 Calistoga or No. 1 Laytonville, a 58-56 winner over Fall River on Wednesday.
“I think when it comes time for Saturday, all we’ll be thinking about is working hard to get through the game,” Sadie Alexander said. “But yeah, we know if we win Saturday we get to take that next step forward. But we have to get there first.”
After Wunner’s opening bucket Tuesday, Alexander took over hitting back-to-back 3-pointers en route to an 18-point night on six triples. And while the Lions jumped out to an 8-3 edge after the senior’s baskets, Tomales’ Isabel Sartori did her best to keep the visitors in the game, hitting a 3-pointer from the right side and following it up a pair of free throws as Redding Christian led 11-8 after one period.
Video by Tracy Holmes/Shasta County Sports
“I felt good even though we hadn’t scored for however long,” Redding Christian Scott Alexander said. “It was all the shots we want. They’re wide open, they’re uncontested. You know eventually they’re going to drop.”
And once they started falling, Redding Christian outscored the Braves 20-13 in the quarter to take a 10-point lead into the locker room.
Alexander started the scoring with a 3-ball from the left corner, Kaylee Jones scored down low but missed the and-one before freshman Bailey Matos added back-to-back baskets.
Then Wunner gave the Lions a 23-14 lead on an old-fashioned 3-point play that gave the senior post 1,001 career points.
Matos added a give-and-go bucket before hitting a floater. Courtney Jones picked a Tomales pocket and took it all the way for a transition layup and Avery Marshall added a basket off a Matos assist to end the half.
“It felt comfortable, but they kept hanging around with deep bank shots,” Coach Alexander said. “I thought we played them tough defensively. Every shot was contested and at the end of the shot clock.”
In fact, the Lions forced four shot clock violations on the Braves in the first half.
Redding Christian opened the second half defensively in zone and the Braves took advantage, starting the third on an 8-3 run including triples by Sartori and a wild 3-ball bank by Abby Bianchi. After Sartori hit a 10-foot runner in the paint to cut the Lions’ lead to 36-29, Alexander called time and switched back to man.
“We go from up 13 to now it’s seven and that’s on me,” Alexander said. “So it’s instantly back to man and we pulled away.”
Out of the timeout, Sadie Alexander hit from range off a Kaylee Jones assist, Wunner hit from the paint, but missed the and-one and Courtney Jones again converted on a swipe-and-score to end the quarter on a 7-0 Lions run and a 43-29 edge entering the final quarter.
“It’s part of the hustle we have on our team,” coach Alexander said. “The two Jones girls are going to keep balls alive; they never stop.”
It’s a sentiment his daughter echoed, crediting her 18-point night largely on her teammates desire to win.
“It’s nice, but I can’t do it without the great ball movement we had tonight,” Sadie Alexander said. “Courtney Jones just dishing it and getting her 400th career assists tonight is crazy.”
The team ball was on full display at the start of the fourth period as Courtney Jones stole a pass and when the Lions didn’t have numbers set the offense up. She called out a play and four or five passes later, the Lions found Alexander curling out of the lane with a skip pass to the left side and a wide-open 3-ball.
On the ensuing possession, the Lions showed they could also do it in the interior of Tomales’ 2-3 zone as Alexander, Courtney Jones and Aleah Matos worked the ball around to find Kaylee Jones in the short corner. Jones allowed the defense to collapse and hit a cutting Wunner for an easy deuce and a 48-29 lead with just over 6:30 remaining that made the final almost academic.
“Our goal coming into tonight was to play with no fear,” Sadie Alexander said. “We knew we’d have to come in and give it our all. We didn’t want yesterday to be our last practice.
“I think we’re striving to say we can do this; we can go all the way.”
No. 2 Redding Christian 54, No. 7 Tomales 39
Tomales (13-9) 8-13-8-10 – 39
Redding Christian (22-5) 11-20-12-11 -54
Braves – Feliciano 2, Rodriguez 6, Bianchi 6, Pantoja 7, Sartori 18
Lions – Marshall 2, A. Matos 3, K. Jones 4, C. Jones 8, B. Matos 8, Wunner 11, Alexander 18
3-pointers – THS – 8: Rodriguez (2), Bianchi (2), Sartori (4); RCS – 7: A. Matos, Alexander (6).
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