RVC girls advance

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Seizing its first lead after working for an open shot, Rincon Valley Christian used an aggressive zone defense to frustrate Turlock Christian and pull away for a 56-45 first-round Nor Cal regional girls’ basketball playoff win.

RVC's Claire Bailey goes up for a shot Tuesday night against Turlock Christian. Photo by Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat

Patience on offense, pressure on defense, the Eagles played their style in the home victory Tuesday. Rincon Valley Christian now faces top-seed Pinewood on Thursday.

“I think we were a little nervous in the beginning. But then we got into our flow,” said Claire Bailey, one of four Eagles to reach double figures in scoring. “We got some stops on defense and that transitioned us into our offense.”
Rincon Valley’s stifling half-court defense limited Turlock Christian to just a handful of second-quarter points. Leading the Eagles on offense was guard Kelly Steliga, getting open on the wing, and forward Hannah Dolan, finding space in the lane, combining for 25 of their team’s 32 first-half points.

Going to a pressing defense, Turlock Christian sped up the pace and cut the deficit from 13 to 8 to open the second half. Rincon Valley Christian regained control by forcing turnovers, controlling rebounds and getting point forward Arianna Hanson and Bailey into the scoring column.

“We were out-hustled. We were out-rebounded,” said Turlock Christian coach Edwin Santiago. “We put more into it in the second half. But we couldn’t make up for our mistakes.”
Coming off a rough loss in the North Coast Section Division V final, Rincon Valley Christian went back to work on passing, getting open and finding the best shots. Defense wasn’t as much of a concern because the effort has been there all season.

“For as hard as they worked, we’re a pretty strong team,” said Rincon Valley Christian coach Doug Crouse.
“Getting to play at home is certainly good for us.”

Both teams feature tall post players and sure handed guards. Rincon Valley Christian was more athletic across the starting lineup, using their speed and strength to wear down Turlock Christian.

“It was working. We did what we needed to do,” Dolan said.

Molly Farrar led Turlock Christian with 15 points and Kara Gabrielson added 11. But the Eagles’ zone defense and active forwards limited post players Kaisa Spycher and Marly Burton to a combined eight points, well under the pair’s average.

“They have good shot blockers. They’re pretty athletic,” Santiago said.
Playing a gutsy game despite battling sickness, Hanson paced the Eagles with 15 points and added 8 rebounds. Bailey overcame early foul trouble to score 14, pull down 6 rebounds and grab 4 steals.

Playing her best game of the season, Steliga netted 12 points, handed out 5 assists and added 7 rebounds.

Dolan was the double-double girl with 13 points and 13 rebounds.

“We played pretty good,” Bailey said. “We’re definitely going to have to play better against Pinewood.”

Such is the standard for a group of seniors who have led Rincon Valley Christian to a great season that keeps getting better.