Turlock loses its grip in Section opener

TURLOCK -- An inability to make free throws and hold the ball led to Turlock High's stunning demise Thursday.

The Bulldogs had been efficient at both much of the season, earning the No. 2 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs as a result.

That seeding didn't hold up in the first round of the playoffs, however, as No. 15 Tracy rallied for a 52-49 victory.

Tracy had started the game with a bang, hitting a trio of 3-pointers to go up 16-4 before Turlock regained its senses.

Turlock cut its deficit to a point by halftime, tied it in the third quarter and went ahead in the fourth quarter.

Point guard Rachel Finnegan was fouled while driving to the hoop, and hit both free throws for a 46-45 lead with 3:46 remaining in the game.

Turlock didn't score in the next 3:18, though, and Tracy went up 50-46. Nicole Serpa's three-point play with 28 seconds left made it 50-49, but Turlock didn't score again.

The Bulldogs (24-4) had one last shot in the closing seconds, but it bounced off the rim as the buzzer sounded.

The key statistics: Turlock committed 27 turnovers and missed 14 shots under the basket. Many of the misses were layups and put-backs, and there were plenty of misses at the free-throw line. Turlock hit 6 of 16 free throws, a poor showing for a team that made 58 percent this season.

"We had everyone prepared, but we did not come out and play," said Turlock coach Salinda Mabie, whose Bulldogs had won 13 in a row. "We played against boys, played against girls, so we would be aggressive out there."

Instead the Bulldogs played passive, their post players waiting for the ball to come into them rather than extending to grab passes.

With Turlock lacking an inside game, Tracy sat back in a zone and forced the Bulldogs to try shoot their way into the quarterfinals.

"We've seen that zone before and we've beaten it," said Mabie, whose club shot 31 percent (20 of 65) from the floor. "It was frustrating."

Finnegan was one of the few Bulldogs who wasn't taken aback by Tracy's physical play.

Tracy's Marlene MacMillan (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Megan Machado (13 points) repeatedly outjumped Turlock's inside players and pried the ball away under the basket.

Despite those flaws, Turlock had an opportunity to pull out the win in the final minutes.

That 3:18 drought, dominated by turnovers and missed opportunities under the basket, brought another early end to the season.

It's the fourth time in Mabie's six seasons that Turlock has made the playoffs, but it has yet win a game. This is the second season in a row Turlock lost at home.

"Tracy hitting those quick 3s, that was the only thing that surprised us," Mabie said. "We knew they would be aggressive, which is why we played against boys this last week.

"This is the fourth time for us, and we've got to find a way to get rid of that demon."

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