Division VI Redding Christian has a history of playing upper division schools – even winning a handful. But none rank on the scale of the Lions girls basketball team upending reigning Division III champion Enterprise.
Redding Christian built a 10-point halftime lead and hung on in a back-and-forth fourth period beating the shorthanded Hornets 49-46 in Thursday’s opening round of the Lady Hornet Classic at Manatowa Gymnasium.
“We came in to shock the world,” Lions coach Scott Alexander said a little tongue-in-cheek.
And while the win certainly is a feather in the cap for the Palo Cedro program, the Hornets also were without Abby Shoff and Alissa Terras, who combined to average 31-plus points per night.
“No excuses,” Hornets coach Anthony Williams said. “Scott had his girls ready to play.”
Enterprise, meanwhile, looked out of sorts without its sophomore center and senior guard. The Hornets shot 5-of-29 from the field in the opening half as they attempted to run on the smaller Lions.
Conversely, Redding Christian opted to plod up the court, set up the offense and shorten the game.
“Listen, they’re down the two best players in Redding,” Alexander said. “I mean they’re great players and a lot of offense and our whole thing was let’s out-compete them.
“Let’s out-compete them. Let’s out-shoot them and out-execute them. That was our motto coming in.”
Tied at 6 nearing the end of the first quarter, the Lions got separation as Sadie Alexander hit triples on back-to-back possessions and they ended the period up 14-8 after Mianna Saechao closed the quarter with a bucket for the Hornets.
Heather Alexander’s two free throws cut the lead to 14-10 before RC closed the half on a 9-3 run that included another Alexander 3-ball as well as one by Kaylee Jones as the Lions entered intermission up 23-13.
“We came out and played really well,” Scott Alexander said.
And as cold as the Hornets were in the first half, they found the rhythm with a change of buckets as Saechao hit two from distance and added free throws for Enterprise, which still trailed by eight, 31-23 at the 3:21 mark of the third. The hosts cut the edge to 35-29 heading into the final stanza.
Natalie Mendes opened the period with a triple and Natayah Saeturn added another off the bench to knot the score at 35 with 6 minutes to play. Mendes’ triple on the next Enterprise possession gave the Hornets their first lead, 38-35. They built the lead to four after Sadie Alexander hit the first of a pair of free throws, but missed the back end – a theme that would play out in the waning moments. Saechao grabbed the freebie miss and raced coast-t0-coast for a layup and a 40-36 lead with 5:20 left to play.
But Alexander, who averaged 13 points per game last season, answered with a 3-pointer, her 17th and final points as she would pick up her fifth foul less than a minute later.
The final period saw four ties and four lead changes as Sammie Wunner’s bucket knotted things at 42 with 3:21 left and freshman Bailey Matos, subbing in for Alexander, drained a 3-pointer from the wing to give Redding Christian a 45-44 lead with 3 minutes to play.
“She has not fear,” Scott Alexander said of the his ninth-grader. “She’s a shooter and came in ready to score.”
And with a one-point edge and the Hornets nearing the double-bonus limit, the Lions had a chance to salt the game with free throws, but missed eight of 11 freebies in the last five minutes of the game – including three straight clinging to a 45-44 lead.
After Saechao hit both ends of a one-and-one to tie the game for the final time, Matos again stepped up and hit a big shot with 35 seconds left. A missed look by the Hornets gave the ball back to the Lions and Wunner was sent to the line with 25 seconds left. She made the front end, but missed the back end. However, Aleah Matos grabbed the board and missed the bunny as Enterprise snagged the board and called timeout with 21 seconds left and a chance to at least tie the game.
Saecaho missed a 3-point look and the Hornets grabbed the board, but Courtney Jones stepped in front of the pass to the perimeter before being fouled with 4 seconds left. She missed both free throws before Wunner grabbed the loose ball and the Hornets never got another look to send the game to overtime.
I am proud of them for hanging on. I think we got tired,” coach Alexander said. “It’s exciting. Our school has never even played Enterprise, so it’s fun for the girls and I’m happy for them.”
Redding Christian -14-9-12-14 -49
Enterprise -8-5-16-17 – 46
Lions – C. Jones 5, Wunner 6, A. Matos 6, B. Matos 7, K. Jones 8, Alexander 17
Hornets – N. mendes 6, K. Mendes 7, Saeturn 8, Alexander 11, Saechao 14
3-pointers: RC- 7: K. Jones, B. Matos, Alexander (5); EHS-7: K. Mendes, N. Mendes (2), Saeturn (2), Saechao (2)
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