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Let the games begin

Five local high school girls teams open Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs tonight
By: Eric J. Gourley, Journal Sports Writer
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Ladies first. Five area high school girls basketball teams will hit the hardwood tonight, opening this season's CIF Sac-Joaquin Section basketball playoffs a day before several local boys teams will play their first postseason games. The Placer and Del Oro girls will kick off Division III action at home. Forest Lake Christian also earned a first round home game in Division V, while in Division IV, Colfax opens at home and Golden Sierra travels to Linden. Placer (22-4) was a perfect 12-0 in the Pioneer Valley League for the second consecutive season. The fourth-ranked Hillmen host Dixon (15-11), the No. 13 seed out of the Capital Valley Conference. I love a four seed, Placer head coach Scott Barry said. It gives you two home games. That is outstanding. If Placer wins its first two games, it will have to play No. 1 St. Mary's to reach the championship. My whole thought is that if you're going to be the section champ, you've got to play the No. 1 team at some point, anyway, Barry said. The balanced Rams finished fourth in the CVC without a player averaging in double digit offense, but Barry expects them to consistently run the ball up the court. Right now our girls are as mentally prepared as they're going to be, the coach said. I kept telling them all year, when we get to this point, this is when we have to be at our best. Dixon is 1-2 in three games against common opponents of Placer this season, including a 47-28 loss to Colfax on Dec. 21. Placer beat Colfax in all three meetings this season. If not for a heartbreaking 32-30 loss to El Dorado last Wednesday, the Falcons (21-6) would have figured to have a relatively easy road to the Division IV championship. Instead, that loss made Colfax the No. 4 seed and put the team in the other half of the bracket. I'm really disappointed, head coach Dan Hicks said. We should have been a three seed but we lost that final game by two points. I really wanted to win that game because we knew our bracket would have been a lot easier if we had been a three seed. In my opinion we have the toughest bracket. If we do beat Le Grand, now we have to beat Linden. Then we have to see Christian Brothers. We have the hardest road to Arco in Division IV. The Falcons will host No. 13 Le Grand (19-4), the undefeated Southern League champion. Le Grand's Jennifer Hansen led the league in scoring, averaging 18.9 points. She touches the ball every time down the court, Hicks said. We're going to try to slow her down and run some people at her. She's a one-girl wrecking crew. Hicks plans to have Lauren Baccala defend Hansen. It won't be easy for the Falcons, who have been sharing the flu with each other. We only have nine players, so when a couple are sick, that really changes our whole dynamic, Hicks said. Le Grand hasn't lost since Dec. 28. Del Oro (21-4) ran the Sierra Foothill League table for the second year in a row, finishing 12-0 in conference play. The Golden Eagles have won seven straight since a 77-54 loss to St. Francis on Jan. 21. Third-ranked Del Oro's first round pairing with No. 14 Pioneer of Woodland (16-11) pits two stars and future teammates against each other “ Eagles point guard Emilie Johnson and Patriots center Megan Kritscher. Both girls will play together at UC Santa Barbara next year. That'll be a neat meeting for them before they actually go down there, said Del Oro head coach Mike Takayama. Kritscher averages 15.8 points per game to lead Pioneer. I think we couldn't have done any better, being undefeated in league, Takayama said. We're looking forward to the challenge. The No. 6 seed is a very tough second round game, but we'll take our chances. I think we have probably the best chance to get to Arco of any of the last four years. Golden Sierra is the only area girls team traveling to play a first round game. The No. 12 Grizzlies will take on fifth-ranked Linden, east of Stockton. Golden Sierra (18-10) fell to Capital Christian in the final Golden Empire League game last Tuesday. It was the team's lone league loss this season. Stevie Saunders leads the Grizzlies offensively, averaging 10.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Linden (22-5) went 14-1 to win the Mother Lode League. The Lions are giving up an average of 42 points this season, yet they're scoring more than 62 per game. Linden has also attempted an astounding 756 3-pointers in 27 games, hitting 194 (26 percent) of them. Forest Lake Christian (16-9) earned the No. 5 seed in Division V after finishing 9-1 in the Central Valley Christian League to share the title with Vacaville Christian. Vacaville beat Forest Lake 60-47 in the CVCL tournament Friday. Forest Lake opens the playoffs against No. 12 Valley Christian of Roseville (13-12), which finished third in the Sacramento Metro League. The Lions score 33 points per game while allowing more than 35. Kayla Campora is averaging 12.3 points and 11 rebounds per game for Forest Lake, which has won 11 of its last 13. Katie Fletcher leads the team in scoring, averaging 15 points.