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Young Sierra set for regional final

By: Journal Sports Staff
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Sierra College women’s basketball coach Brandie Murrish understands the high standard her program has set doesn’t come with any ifs, ands or buts. So even though the Wolverines’ roster is heavy on freshmen and short on experience, Sierra’s expectations haven’t dipped. After winning a Big 8 Conference co-championship, Sierra is headed to Fresno on Saturday, hoping to earn a trip to the state tournament. “In general there’s a standard we try to uphold,” Murrish said. “And they’ve put in the work from the first day in August. They’ve stayed consistent with it and that’s what allows them to be successful. After our pre-season, we were picked to finish fourth in our conference and when we got the co-championship I think that opened their eyes that we’re a decent team.” Sierra’s trademark balance has led to a 17-6 overall record. Freshman guard Brandi Stephens leads the team in scoring at 11.3 points per game. Freshman forward Kayla Hines chips in 10 points per game and freshman Chelsey Ruscillo averages 9.8. Sophomore Darla Bishop is a key in th post, contributing 8.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Colfax High graduate Tyler Divine is a defensive stopper on the perimeter and can slash to the basket on the offensive end. Murrish has enjoyed seeing her young players mature throughout the season. “In conference play the confidence started to set in,” said Murrish, who led Sierra to a state runner-up finish in her first year in Rocklin in 2007. “They really started to execute our game plan, read the defense and understand the pace we want to play at. The Wolverines lost four games before December 3. Their only two losses since came to rival San Joaquin Delta, with whom they shared the Big 8 title. In the playoff opener last Saturday, Sierra dismantled Merced 85-61. The Wolverines had lost to Merced by 15 points in early December. Fifth-seeded Sierra is prepared for the No. 4 Rams (19-10) Saturday. They employ a full-court press similar to Delta. “They’re very similar to Delta, so we’re used to that style of play,” Murrish said. “We’re looking forward to it. We’re peaking at the right time.”