Home sweet home, area teams gear up home playoff games

Home games have area teams poised for big playoff runs
By: Justin A. Lawson Journal Sports Writer
-A +A

Home court advantage may be one of the most overhyped aspects in all of sports but when four area girls basketball teams host first-round CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoff games today, it won’t just be an asset.
“The fact that if we win we’re guaranteed two home games is huge because first of all this team has to drive three hours to play us,” Bear River coach Jeff Bickmore said. “They’ve got a three-hour drive, they’ve got to play and then they’ve got to drive three hours home, that’s got to be a bit of a disadvantage.”
Bear River, which is the No. 4 seed in Division IV, hosts Hughson at 7 p.m. and joins Del Oro, Colfax and Foresthill as hosts in the first round of the playoffs. Because the area is so far removed from many of the teams in the bracket it creates long trips to unfamiliar surroundings that could cost a team early.
The Golden Eagles, which are the fifth seed in Division II, have the closest opponent in 12th-seeded Rio Americano. Second-seeded Colfax faces 15 seed Venture Academy (Stockton) in Division IV play and sixth-seeded Foresthill hosts 11-seeded Denair.
In Del Oro’s case, home court advantage might help a team that isn’t playoff tested. Outside of Bri Ruiz, who started on last year’s state tournament team, no Eagle has much playoff experience.
“I think it allows us to settle down a lot sooner because we’re pretty young and inexperienced at it (playoffs), we’ve been there but most of us really haven’t done anything at the playoffs yet,” Del Oro coach Mike Takayama said. “I think it will be a nice settling factor to have our familiar surroundings.”
The Eagles (17-10) are coming off their eighth straight Sierra Foothill League championship and received a favorable matchup with Rio Americano (17-10). The Raiders beat SFL opponent Rocklin, a team Del Oro beat twice, 50-49 in December and have just one senior mixed with six sophomores and a few juniors. No one averages more than 7.9 points per game or 7.3 rebounds per game.
“I don’t know if they have someone who can defend Stephanie (Geyer) in the block so we’ll definitely be looking into her again and if we move the basketball like we did in our last league game, we’ll be fine,” Takayama said.
As a four seed, Bear River (18-8) is in a great spot to move through the tournament and perhaps onto Power Balance Arena, which will host the finals March 3. The problem is Bickmore hasn’t found much information about Hughson – not even the players’ heights.
“This Hughson team, I have stats but I haven’t seen any video on them, I haven’t heard anything from anybody on them, I’ve tried to find coaches I can contact but none of them are teachers at the schools so I haven’t been able to get any contact information to ask any other coaches. I’m going to keep trying but right now I don’t really have a whole lot of information.”
What Bickmore does know is that Hughson is lead by senior post Addie Garza, who averages 10 points a game, 8.4 rebounds and three assists.
Colfax (16-8) didn’t have any problem finding information on Venture Academy (22-2). Crystal Cervantes leads Venture Academy with 25 points per game to go a long with 6.1 assists and 4.8 steals. The Falcons aren’t worried about stats after holding players like Bear River’s Jen Meylor well under her 17.9 point average both teams they faced her.
“We’re just going to rotate help onto her always and shut her down,” Campbell said. “We’ve faced others that have averaged 20 points a game and kept them below their average.”

Playoff Schedule for Tuesday, Feb. 21
Rio Americano at Del Oro, 7 p.m.
Hughson at Bear River, 7 p.m.
Venture Academy at Colfax, 7 p.m.
Denair at Foresthill, 7 p.m.