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Linden smothers Hilmar

HILMAR -- Jessica Paine doubled over with her hands on her knees and her cheeks slightly flushed.

The Hilmar senior had seen entire defenses designed to stop her this season, but hadn't endured many games where it was so difficult to find open space.

Paine wasn't the only Hilmar player feeling a little claustrophobic on Thursday night.

Linden's aggressive, physical defense smothered Hilmar's offense, holding it to just 10 field goals in a 47-29 victory in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV second round playoff game.

"It was pretty hard," Paine said. "They were pulling my jersey, grabbing me.

"You couldn't get a lot of room."

Unprepared for Linden's defensive intensity, Hilmar (24-4) struggled out of the gate.

Bridgette Hughes knocked down a pair of early 3s and Linden (23-6) opened the game with a 12-0 run.

Hilmar's first basket of the game came on a last-second jumper to end the quarter.

"We knew they were going to be a good team, but I don't think we imagined they would be that tough," Shelbi Santos said. "We finally woke up in the second quarter."

An angry looking Hilmar team took the court in the second quarter and fought its way back into the game.

Paine scored eight of her game-high 13 points in the second.

Hilmar upped its physical play, throwing Linden's offense off its game in the second half. Unfortunately, Hilmar couldn't take advantage.

After going 4 of 7 from behind the 3-point arc in the first half, Linden went cold from the perimeter and Paul Willis' squad twice cut the lead to eight.

"We knew they couldn't keep shooting from the outside the way they did in the first half, so we focused on taking away the interior," Willis said. "Twice we got it down to eight, but we could never get the next basket."

Jamie Payne hit a couple buckets late in the third to push Linden's lead back to 12.

It never got any closer.

"We had a great season," Willis said. "Linden was a very good team and they deserved it.

"We got the school's first league title in 27 years, so there's lots to be proud of."

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