By Ray Hamill — It wasn’t a typical performance by the Corsairs, but then again it wasn’t a typical occasion.
Playing a big, physical Skyline team in their NorCal playoff opener, the College of the Redwoods women had to fight all the way in this one, pulling out a thrilling 62-60 win with some suffocating defense and an outstanding night on the boards.
The high-octane CR women did not have a particularly good night shooting the ball, but found a way to win with a gutsy performance.
“They did an amazing job,” head coach Jain Tuey said of her players. “They were composed, they battled, I mean they battled through the entire game. They deserved it.”
On a night when inspirational point guard Bree Northern was hampered with a groin injury, others picked up the slack, none more so than freshman Dennise Horton, whose presence inside against the physical Trojans was pivotal.
Horton led an outstanding team performance on the boards.
“We stressed that all week long,” Tuey said of the importance of rebounding against this team. “It came down to our heart and tenacity and wanting to get that ball. And that’s just a testament to the girls.”
Horton and Ashley Quigley each scored a game-high 18 points in the win, which sets up a NorCal quarterfinal next week, likely against top seed San Joaquin Delta.
Surprisingly, however, many of CR’s points came inside the paint, with just four 3-pointers on the night, only one in the opening half.
“They played with grit,” Tuey said of her players.
Defensively, the Corsairs rarely allowed the visitors to settle into any sort of a groove, and were particularly effective late in the game, holding the Trojans without a score for almost the entire final two minutes.
“I knew that’s what we had to do,” Tuey said of the stellar defensive performance. “And I believed they had it in them to do it. They stepped up to the plate.”
The Corsairs held the visitors to just 25 points for the opening two quarters, but were unable to put much distance between the two teams, with never more than six points separating the two in the first half.
The third quarter was a foul fest, with the two teams taking a combined 27 free throws for the period.
A late 3-pointer, however, gave the visitors a slender one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Darienne Kartes and Quigley got the Corsairs off to a flying start in the final period, and they managed to open up a six-point gap midway through.
After that, thanks to their defense, they were able to barely keep the visitors at bay, although it made for a nerve-wracking final few minutes for a packed home crowd.
Horton pleaded with her coach before the game to allow her to guard Skyline’s chief threat Olga Faasolo, and the CR freshman did not disappoint, holding her to just four points.
Kartes hit a couple of big 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and finished with 10 points, while the tenacious Brianna Green got her first start of the season and picked up a lot of the slack with Northern limited.
Abiona Katri added five points, including a big 3-pointer to give her team a spark in the third quarter, while Julianna Ortega-Miranda had four points.
Despite the injury, Northern was an influential as ever when she was on the court.