In life, stealing is bad. In basketball, it can be good.
Redding Christian’s Sammie Wunner was a master thief Saturday on the Shasta College hardwood in her squad’s 41-32 Northern Section girls Division VI finals victory over Fall River, the second straight crown for Lions. All playoff coverage presented by Redding Rancheria.
The senior post, plagued with early foul trouble, made an impact on the low-scoring affair with two of her five steals on the Bulldogs’ first two possessions of the second half.
Clinging to a 16-14 lead at intermission, Aleah Matos gave the Lions a four-point edge with a mid-range jumper.
As Fall River set up in its half-court offense, Wunner played the lob entry pass perfectly, stepping in front of her man and swiping the rock.
Video by Tracy Holmes/Shasta County Sports
“In practice, we worked on their offense to be prepared,” she said. “That put me in the right spot and I was able to grab those steals. We watched film and studied their plays so we knew what was coming.
“It gave us some fuel.”
Though she’d miss a shot on the other end, it was like a Leap Day version of Groundhog’s Day as Wunner intercepted the entry pass on the ensuing Fall River possession. This time, Kaylee Jones converted to put Redding Christian up 20-14 two minutes into the second half.
Redding Christian coach Scott Alexander said it worked even better Saturday than it did in practice.
“She (Wunner) did it way better (tonight) than she practiced it, to be honest,” he said. “She was amazing defensively.”
And while Wunner couldn’t pick a pocket on the next possession, the Bulldogs helped out on their own with a turnover that cause coach Tarron Corder to call a quick timeout.
The Bulldogs coach bemoaned his team’s inability to hold on to the rock as well as convert when they did hit the entry pass, but said there was another key factor in Fall River’s defeat.
“I think the difference was that we didn’t cause enough turnovers and they did it to us,” he said, adding that in a low-scoring game giving away possessions is magnified.
Matos scored for the Lions to start the third period on a left-handed layup before Wunner hit the front end of two freebies to boost the lead to 23-14 less than three minutes into the third.
Redding Christian kept the lead around seven as a Wunner drop-step answered back-to-back Fall River buckets by Natalie Osborne and Rylee Pevehouse. After Marissa Leighton cut the Fall River deficit to 25-20, Bailey Matos answered with a left-side runner.
The freshman finished with a game-high 11 and came up big in the first half with nine points as senior point guard Sadie Alexander sat on the bench in foul trouble.
She opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer from the left side and was the beneficiary of Wunner’s first steal, hitting a bank shot from the right side. She’d add a tear drop runner and give-and-go bank shot off an Aleah Matos assist.
“She’s a freshman that can scare me on defense, but helps us so much on offense,” Scott Alexander said. “She’s got the little floater, that’s her thing, the kiss off the glass. She’s got that knack for it. She was huge.
“She’s kind of clueless (about the magnitude of the game) and comes in with no fear. To lead all scorers as a freshman is pretty awesome.”
And while the freshman buoyed Alexander’s crew in the first 16 minutes, the seniors did their part on the back end.
“I told them at half, they had no excuse. They couldn’t be tired after sitting a lot of the first half,” he said his daughter and Wunner both sitting with foul trouble.
Up 27-23 in the final minute of the third period, Sadie Alexander hit her lone 3-ball on a bank shot and a 30-23 edge heading into the final period.
Wunner opened the fourth with buckets on two of the first three Redding Christian possessions, Alexander hit a bucket at the end of the shot clock and Kaylee Jones hit one of two freebies as the Lions led 37-25 with 4:30 left in the contest.
“It was a tough physical game and Fall River played really well and made us grind it out,” Scott Alexander said.
And though the Lions missed 6-of-8 free throws down the stretch, the Bulldogs could only muster an Alexis Easley basket, a Jasmine Royal score in the paint and an Osborne triple.
“Not making free throws made it interesting – we were 3-of-13 in the second half,” he said before enjoying the moment. “We want to keep going; they’re not done. Our whole pregame was about not taking anything for granted.
“The fact they’ve gotten to play in all these games and do this in a high school career is amazing. The seniors, their last three years; who gets to do all of that? Not too many teams get to three straight finals and two back-to-back wins.”
No. 1 Redding Christian 41, No. 2 Fall River 32
Fall River – 11-3-9-9 -32
Redding Christian – 7-9-14-11 – 41
Bulldogs (22-5) – Royal 2, Pevehouse 2, Robbins 4, Easley 4, Bucher 4, Osborne 7, Leighton 9.
Lions (21-5) – C. Jones 3, Alexander 5, K. Jones 7, A. Matos 7, Wunner 8, B. Matos 11.
3-pointers – FR – 1: Osborne; RC – 2: B. Matos, Alexander.
Photos by Maddie Harrell / Shasta County Sports
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