It was the kind of start the St. Francis High girls basketball team hoped for – a 15-5 lead on the road in the Northern California Division I quarterfinals. It didn’t last, however, as Bear Creek of Stockton rallied for a 64-59 win after altering its defense late in the first period.
“That kind of freaked us out,” Lancers coach Sami Pompei said of the Bruins’ switch from zone to man-to-man. “You could see the fear in the seniors – they didn’t want the season to end – and we got frazzled. Then we started going cold, missing free throws, layups and not executing on offense.”
Clinging to a 29-27 advantage at halftime, No. 14 St. Francis (16-10 overall) was outscored 20-9 in the third quarter. No. 6 Bear Creek (29-5) maintained the lead the rest of the way, up by as many as 12 points in the fourth before the Lancers cut their deficit to five in the final minute.
Mya Blake and Deyliana Lewis fueled the Bruins’ comeback, finishing with 23 and 18 points, respectively, against a team that beat them in the first round of last year’s NorCal playoffs.
“We tried our best, but we could not stop those two from scoring,” Pompei said.
Especially without 6-foot-1 center Mia Grizelj – who faced foul trouble in the second half – patrolling the paint.
“When Mia picked up her fourth foul and we took her out, it hurt our chances,” Pompei said. “We tried to go small, and they took advantage.”
St. Francis (16-10 overall) struggled on offense as well. The Lancers shot just 32 percent from the field and missed 21 of their 30 attempts from 3-point range.
Point guard Paige Uyehara finished with 15 points to pace St. Francis; fellow senior Grizelj added 13, as did freshman forward Jessica Oakland.
Oakland scored 18 in the Lancers’ opening-round upset of No. 3 Cardinal Newman, with 10 of those points coming in the last quarter of the 64-62 victory. Uyehara put up 21 points against the host Cardinals (24-6), who trailed for most of the Feb. 26 game.
St. Francis lost the lead in the fourth, falling behind by six points with five minutes to go. Undeterred, the Lancers closed the game on a 22-14 run to eke out the win. Oakland buried two of her four 3-pointers during that stretch.
“They executed the game plan to a T,” Pompei said of her team. “Even when we got behind late, they stuck to it.”