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TC girls back in section title game
TC girls 2
Meghan Mark of TC goes up in between two Sacramento defenders during the third quarter of Thursdays semifinal game. Mark finished with four steals and 11 points. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal

For the second year in a row the Turlock Christian High girls’ varsity basketball squad has punched their ticket to the Division VI Sac-Joaquin Section Championship game after beating Sacramento Waldorf, 48-34, in the semifinal game at home on Thursday night.

“Without my teammates I wouldn’t be able to do any of this but also coach Edwin is amazing,” said junior Meghan Mark. “He knows what to do and he knows how to get us motivated and determined to get to where we want to be.”

 “We just have really good coaching and we played really well together,” said TC senior Hannah Sawyer.

With the help of a stellar defensive performance — again — which has been the focal point all season long, the Eagles of TC started off the first half just as good as anybody, holding Sacramento to only 12 points by the end of the second quarter.

The full court press caused significant problems for the visitors, who with their 6-foot-4 junior Lillian Olson found it very difficult to control the paint despite a lopsided difference in height.

“I remember in our pre-game talk we spoke about finding the fire within ourselves,” said Sawyer. “I think we all came together and worked really hard and have been preparing all week to stop Lillian and I think we proved we could do that.”

TC’s Mikayla Yagi, Tori Viera and McCalister Russell were huge assets in the paint after holding Olson to only 19 points for the night after averaging over 23 points per game heading into this contest.

“Mikayla was outstanding. She played a stellar defensive game and Tori Viera had her back at all times,” said TC head coach Edwin Santiago. “If they were going to Lillian, Tori and Mikayla were taking that away, hats off to them. They stopped her in the beginning of the game and set the tempo.”

With the help of Cassie Balswick’s team-high nine steals the Eagles of TC tallied 32 steals as a team.

Over the last two postseason games the Eagles have over 50 steals.

Balswick would finish the night with eight assists and five points.

Mark and Sawyer were both tied for second on the team with 11 points apiece and Russell scored a team-high of 17.

“Coach said to give it all we have. It’s our second time at sections and I think we didn’t want it as much last year, but this time he said to give it all we have because it’s all we got,” said Mark.

After leading by 20 points for most of the game, the Waves of Sacramento cut it to 18 by the end of the third and despite outscoring the Eagles, 11-5 in the fourth quarter the time had become a factor and the Eagles won their fifth consecutive game.

“We have to keep up our intensity and never give up. I feel like after halftime we let down a little bit, but we need to play every second and every quarter our hardest,” said Sawyer.

The section title game will be a rematch of last year’s game between the TC Eagles and Valley Christian.

“I just want to have more fun going into the section title game than last year,” Santiago said. “Last year I was nervous and that affected the girls. I hope we have a more confident approach this time and it will turn off the tightness we might have in the fourth. Just leave it on the court.”

Both teams met during the regular season back on Dec. 9 and VC won 63-56, but this will be a different environment.

The game is scheduled to be played at Galt High School at 6 p.m. Thursday.

“Our defense will be the key to victory next week. Defense will win the game,” said Santiago. “We have to reduce their opportunities, but we need to do a better job of stopping Erika Lyon because she makes threes from half court, and limit their scoring.”