By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
SACRAMENTO — One step away from an appearance in the CCCAA state championship game, the Santa Rosa JC women’s basketball team built a 12-point second-half lead, only to see Mt. San Jacinto College roar back to steal a 63-58 victory Saturday night at Cosumnes River College.
The turn of events left the Bear Cubs stunned, frustrated and generally heartbroken as they came to grips with a season that ended one day too soon.
“We just had some bad breaks that they capitalized on and we didn’t,” Santa Rosa coach Lacey Campbell said afterward. “I think we deserved to win that game, but at the same time they did it.”
SRJC twice led by 12, the second time after Jade Hudson scored inside to push the score to 41-29. A minute and a half later, Kelseyville grad Skyler Olsen pulled up for a 10-footer that gave her team a 43-32 edge. And then the Bear Cubs’ shooting touch abandoned them. They would score just four field goals over the final 14-plus minutes of the game.
Most maddeningly, Santa Rosa stopped nailing its free throws. It was an 11-point run that gave the Bear Cubs an early lead they would protect for most of the game, and six of those 11 points came on free throws. But after hitting 80 percent (8 of 10) from the line in the first half, they made just 46.2 percent (6 of 13) in the second, giving the Eagles an open window to fly through.
Mt. San Jacinto, the No. 2 seed from the South, will play Mt. San Antonio College, the South’s No. 1 seed and winners over Fresno City College on Saturday, in Sunday’s title game.
The late game Saturday presented a contrast in approaches. Eagles coach Chris Mozga said he usually rotates nine players, but in the semifinal game he mostly stuck with seven. He has a dominant player in Tina Fantroy, who lit up the Bear Cubs for 30 points, many of them down the stretch.
Santa Rosa, on the other hand, is a team with incredible depth but no star power. Campbell rotated 10 players against Mt. San Jacinto, and the scoring reflected that, with no one tallying more than 12 points.
You might have expected the Bear Cubs to be fresher down the stretch, but that didn’t seem to be the case. Mt. San Jacinto cuts its deficit to 46-44 with 10:16 left, tied it at 51-51 with 6:39 remaining and finally took a 53-52 lead — its first since being up 10-9 — at the 5:19 mark. There were two lead changes and one tie after that, but it was the Eagles who wound up pulling away.
Santa Rosa’s last real chance came when Whitney Edens (Cloverdale) drove to the basket and scored to cut Mt. San Jacinto’s lead to three points, just before a timeout with 47 seconds on the clock. But Fantroy hit 2 of 4 free throws in the closing minute, while the Bear Cubs came up empty.
Edens led SRJC with 12 points and added five rebounds. Anandi Jimenez (Montgomery) had eight points and nine rebounds in just 15 minutes of action, Arianna Hanson (Rincon Valley Christian) had eight points and eight rebounds, and Olsen had nine points and five rebounds.
Santa Rosa held a rebounding edge of 54-48, but hit just 2 of 19 attempts from 3-point range.
Campbell was understandably deflated after the game, but couldn’t hide her admiration for the 27-7 Bear Cubs.
“There’s a lot of good things about this team,” she said. “They’re a bunch of Sonoma County kids that came together and, as a team, played above their individual talent. They did everything we asked. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.