Exeter rebounds, heads for state

By Andrea Camarena

Exeter will have to shake off a rough loss before heading to southern California to face No. 3 St. Mary's Academy in the first round of the Division IV state basketball tournament on Thursday, March 8 in Los Angeles.

The Belles will enter the contest with a 29-5 record and went undefeated, 8-0, in the Santa Cruz League. The Inglewood team has not lost a game since Jan. 25.

Exeter will have to rebound from a 58-45 loss to Kingsburg in the Division IV Central Section Championship game on Saturday, March 3 at the Selland Arena in Fresno.

The Monarchs fell in their fourth contest against the Vikings this season, taking second place in the Valley.

Exeter defeated the Central Sequoia League foe once in the preseason and once in during conference play but fell in to Kingsburg in the second round of league 40-47 on Feb. 14. The Vikings shutdown Exeter's offense in the first quarter of the Championship game on Saturday, forcing 12 turnovers and holding the Monarchs to 2 points on their way to a 16-2 first quarter lead.

&#8220Our shots weren't falling,” Exeter coach Linda Wachter said. &#8220Kingsburg is fast and they hustle. They're scrappy and they have nothing to lose.”

Exeter was one for seven from the field with Kendra Amann hitting the first basket for the Monarchs with 1:55 left in the quarter.

Exeter came back with a 6-0 run at the start of the second quarter and outscored the Vikings 11-18 but struggled to close in on the lead as Kingsburg kept working the hoop.

Exeter's Carly Tristao hit three of six from the field for 6 points and Abby Bloetscher shot 100% from the field and at the line to add another 6 points for the Monarchs.

After the break, Kinsgburg came back in the third quarter to outscore the Monarchs 16-10 and take a 43-30 lead.

The last quarter of the game was even on both sides of the court and the Vikings continued to contain Exeter's leading scorer and rebounder, Abby Bloetscher. Exeter's Ashley Wilson fouled out with 56 seconds on the clock and Exeter was forced to foul Kingsburg as the clock counted down.

Exeter's Bloetscher was awarded the Fighting Spirit Award after scoring 15 points and shooting six for 10 inside the arc and three for four at the line.

The Monarchs were also helped by Tristao and Cortney Whitlock who each added 6 points. Whitlock also picked up seven rebounds.

&#8220They've pressed us all four times we've played,” Wachter said after the game. &#8220What was different this time was us. Early in the season, we had three key injuries. We will have a fast team next year and next year, it will be different.”

The defending valley champions entered the game with no seniors, two injured players and one player who had just returned from the injury list.

The win was Kinsgburg's first girls basketball Valley Title in school history. The Vikings entered the game as the No. 5 seed with a 9-game winning streak and a 9-1 league record.

The winner of Exeter's first round State game will go on to face the winner of the Whittier Christian versus La Jolla Country Day game.

The regional semifinal will take place on Saturday, March 10.

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