GALT — Ripon Christian High fell short in its bid for a record 12th Sac-Joaquin Section girls' title, but not before throwing a scare into heavily favored Turlock Christian.
"When we played them early this season, we trailed by 20 in the first half," said RC coach Kirk Tillema. "Tonight we come out and we're within a point in the final minutes."
It got no closer than one, however.
Amy Wright sparked a nine-point run to lift the No. 2-seeded Eagles to a 55-45 win and into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 final on Friday.
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The Eagles (26-4) face No. 1 Bradshaw Christian (21-8) Friday at 4 p.m. at Arco Arena in Sacramento.
Only a handful of teams came into the playoffs with fewer losses than the Knights (12-15), but that record is deceiving because they play large schools in the Trans-Valley League.
While that resulted in a 4-6 league record and a No. 11 seed, it kept the Knights improving during the year.
"We're working hard every night in the TVL," said sophomore Mikaela Alger, who scored six in the second half to rally RC. "We'll miss the TVL, but after this one, I think we'll do well in the Southern League."
The matchup was noteworthy because RC is moving to the SL, which TC dominated this season despite losing its top player in January.
The Eagles were rarely tested during league, and they struggled against the Knights' zone defense.
"We can't play TC man-to-man, so we were 2-3 and 3-2 zones and forcing them to run their offense," said Tillema, whose club got within 43-44 when Alger hit two free throws with 2:38 left in the game.
Wright responded with a 15-footer and Candice Balswick broke loose for a layup in an 18-second span. After a free throw, Wright and Molly Farrar scored for a 53-43 lead.
The 5-foot-9 Wright had 14 of her 21 points in the second half, hitting 7 of 10 from the floor. TC's ability to get second and third shots compensated for its 23 of 79 performance.
"We did a better job of getting position in the second half and it kept us in front," said Wright, who had nine offensive boards. "We've changed a lot from the start of the year, when we still had Halie (Bergman)."
A freshman, Bergman was averaging 24 points before her knee injury. That put the scoring load to Wright, Farrar and Kaisa Spycher and they combined for 42 points against RC.
"You can never replace a player like Halie," Wright said. "When she went out, everyone else had to play harder if we we expected to keep winning. We all put in that effort."