It was a rematch of last year’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI Girls Basketball Championship on Thursday when Turlock Christian High and Valley Christian High met on the court at Galt High. The Eagles entered the game keen on avenging the 7-point loss that landed them in the runners up position in 2014, but in the end history repeated itself as TC fell 52-59 and the Lions became back-to-back Div.VI champions.
“We give credit where credit is due, and Valley Christian earned it,” TC head coach Edwin Santiago said.
The Eagles opened the game with a nine-point run, but by the end of the first quarter Valley Christian found itself within a basket of TC, 13-11. TC’s full-court press took over in the second, however, as the Lions were held to only four points through the remainder of the half. With its defense effectively containing Valley Christian and its top scorer Lily Hagerty, who scored only six points in the first half, TC jumped out to a 21-15 halftime lead.
“We knew the third period is their best period. That’s where they got us the last time we played them in December,” Santiago said.
But things took a turn for the worse in the third quarter for the Eagles. Beginning with a Hagerty trey, the Lions’ offense awakened as they adjusted to the Eagles’ full-court press and quickly closed the gap to claim the lead. Valley Christian orchestrated a 13-point run that was rooted in the shooting skills of Hagerty and the rebounding ability of 6’4”Seraiah Tyller. Whereas Tyller’s size was negated by the play of TC’s McCalister Russell for much of the first half, Tyller was able to reassert herself in the paint in the third and fourth quarter to limit TC’s opportunities.
With four minutes left in regulation Valley Christian led by 15 points. The night was beginning to look bleak for TC, but still its girls didn’t quit. Instead they began to chip away at the Lions’ lead with perimeter shooting from Meghan Mark who hit a trey and a four-point play to give her team hope. That hope was dashed by Valley Christian from the free-throw line, however, as a steady stream of fouls sent Lions shooters to the line where they shot 74 percent.
Hagerty ended the game with 28 points — 22 of which were scored in the second half.
“I thought that Lilly was the difference in the second half. Her athleticism, her prowess, as a player her skill set was much higher in the second half and it was just too much for us to handle,” Santiago said. “She was a different player in the second half. I had to call timeouts to try and reduce that energy she had.”
Russell finished the game as TC’s leading scorer with 16 points.
Thursday’s loss marked the fourth Section Championship loss in as many appearances for Santiago since he’s been at TC. Despite the loss, the Eagles are looking forward to another shot at redemption next season as all but five of this year’s roster will be returning.
“Next year we’re going to come back and we’re going to work really hard and we’re going to beat them,” Russell said. “We’re not going to lose again. This is the last time we lose against them.”