SRJC women win state basketball title

SRJC's Mia Greco, shown here in a game earlier this season, was voted on Sunday as the MVP of the CCCAA state tournament. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / PD)By HOWARD SENZELL

The formula was simple Sunday afternoon in Ventura for the Santa Rosa JC women’s basketball team …
Stifling defense against a high-scoring team would equal a state championship.

And that formula worked to perfection as SRJC defeated City College of San Francisco, 52-45, to win its first CCCAA state title in 23 years.

In less than 24 hours, the Bear Cubs knocked off Southern California’s top seed Mt. San Antonio, 56-55, and then handled NorCal’s No. 1 CCSF. The Mounties had been averaging 75 per game while the CCSF Rams were scoring at a 78-point clip.

“Wow,” SRJC head coach Lacey Campbell said. “Defense is what we’ve hung our hat on all year and the girls were awesome in the two Final Four games. We might not have the firepower on offense, but our goal on defense is to communicate and keep opponents from doing what they do best.”

San Francisco made only 24.2 percent of its field goal attempts and Janis Peterson, who had been averaging 22, hit only 1-of-17 from the field.

Peterson, who scored 26 in her team’s victory over Cypress in Saturday’s other semifinal, finished with three points and didn’t score until 7:01 were left in the game.
Ashley Morgan, a 5-foot-10 freshman out of Maria Carrillo, guarded Peterson most of the game.

“We played San Francisco twice early in the season and I knew Peterson likes to go to her left,” Morgan said. “So, I took that away from her and just tried to stay in her face. As the game went on, I could tell she was getting frustrated.”

Morgan injured her right shin in a first half collision, but played through the pain in the second half. She banged it again with 1:24 left and had to be helped off the court.
In five tournament games, SRJC held opponents to an average of 46 points.

The Bear Cubs took the lead for good, 23-21, with 1:05 left in the first half on a jump shot by Morgan. Jenna Reed started the play with a steal, then pushed the ball ahead to Marie Sweet, who spotted Morgan on the wing.

The Bear Cubs led 26-23 at intermission and increased the margin to seven in the first 90 seconds of the second half on lay-ups by Morgan and Mia Greco.

The Bear Cubs’ best defensive surge came in the final seven minutes. At that point, the lead was 45-41. In the next six minutes, the Rams scored only one point. They missed seven straight shots and turned the ball over twice.

When Jen Tsurumoto made a pair of free throws with 46 seconds remaining, the lead increased to 49-42.

SRJC didn’t shoot lights out, hitting only 34 per cent and connecting on only 4-of-14 treys.

But the big offensive difference was free throw accuracy. The Bear Cubs made 16 of 22 while San Francisco could knock down only 12 of 26.

Greco, the 2009 All-Empire Player of the Year from Petaluma High, was named the tournament’s most valuable player. The sophomore had a game-high 16 points on Sunday.

She was the Bear Cubs’ leading scorer in the regular season with a 14-point average.
“I wasn’t happy with the way I played against Mt. San Antonio,” Greco said. “I was 0-for-9 from the field and scored four points.

“I’m glad I could contribute more in the finals. I told myself this is the last game I’m playing at the JC and I’m going to do whatever it takes to win the state title for Lacey and my teammates.

“We all realized what was on the line and played together as a team. We knew what to expect from San Francisco and we all knew we could do this.”

Tsurumoto, the 2010 All-Empire Player of the Year out of Analy, joined Greco and Morgan on the all-tournament team. The freshman scored 12 on Sunday and 20 in the semifinal win.

“This is crazy,” she said. “Personally, when the season started I didn’t think we’d go this far. I don’t think anybody did. We just kept improving and then we won the Big 8 title. By the time playoffs started, we believed in ourselves.”

The Bear Cubs’ squad consists of eight freshmen and four sophomores. Eight of those players are from the Empire.

“All the credit goes to the girls for what they accomplished,” Campbell said. “I told them early on what we had to do to win games and they bought into it. Not many people believed in us.”

Campbell, in her sixth season at SRJC, took a team with nine sophomores to the Final Four last year and they were eliminated by Fullerton in the semis.

SRJC winds up 28-6 and won its last seven games. San Francisco, winner of the Coast League-North Division, finishes at 27-6.