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Eagles fall short in own tournament finale
TC girls pic1
Turlock Christian’s Natalie Snyder, right, led the Eagles with 17 points in a 62-55 loss to Livingston High in the championship game of the 7UP Tournament on Saturday. - photo by CHHUN SUN / The Journal

The game didn’t come down to the last minute, Turlock Christian girls basketball coach Edwin Santiago protested afterward.

It was close throughout, he insisted.

Nonetheless, the conclusion of the championship game of the sixth annual 7UP Central Valley Invitational was a tough one to accept for the Eagles, who led for most of Saturday afternoon against a relentless Livingston High team at Calvary Baptist Gym.

After steadily owning a four-to-five point edge, Turlock Christian didn’t sink a field goal in the final four minutes and eventually lost 62-55. The Wolves — with a 19-point effort from tournament MVP Tara Lao — issued a 14-2 run down the stretch that damaged the Eagles, who were aiming for back-to-back tournament titles.

Instead, Livingston won it all for the first time.

The Eagles continue tournament play Thursday, when they face Victory Christian at the competitive Bradshaw Christian Tournament in Sacramento.

“It was a little tough at the end because we were ahead for the most part,” said Turlock Christian guard Molly Farrar, a double-digit contributor who finished with an uncharacteristic four points against the Wolves. “It’s hard because you think you’re going to do it, but at the end, they come up with a couple points.”

The game was tied at 14-14 after one quarter, as the Eagles led 32-26 by halftime. It continued to be close in the third quarter, with TC ahead 48-43 heading into the final period. It was then that the Wolves climbed and clawed back for the win.

Livingston exploded for a 22-7 fourth quarter.

“At halftime, we talked about how everyone needed to know where their man is,” Wolves coach Luciana Lacey said. “We needed to watch the passing lanes, anticipate the ball a little bit and put some pressure on it. They were able to do better than the first half.”

The Eagles, however, had to do it without two important teammates in junior center Marly Burton and explosive scorer Halie Bergman, who is sidelined for the entire season due to a knee injury she suffered some 12 months ago. Burton, a much developed player from last season, according to Coach Santiago, suffered a shoulder injury in the previous day’s 51-40 tournament victory over Patterson and couldn’t play against Livingston.

Still, the available TC players stepped up in their absences with three double-digit scorers in Natalie Snyder (17 points), Rebekah Muller (16) and Kaisa Spycher (10). Kara Gabrielson knocked in a 3-pointer at the 4-minute mark in the fourth to give her Eagles a 53-48 advantage, but the Wolves began their rally shortly after.

“Ahead by four or five was too close to feel like we had the momentum,” Coach Santiago said. “They were so scrappy, they were so aggressive that at no point did we feel comfortable with a five-point lead or a four-point game. It was a one-possession, two-possession game the whole time.”

To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.