WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Giants hold off Santa Rosa

COS’ Teresa Sandoval dribbles the ball against Santa Rosa this past Saturday. The Giants held off Santa Rosa for the 68-65 victory to open the Northern California Regional playoffs.(Norma Foster/COS Athletics)

COS women’s basketball survives in a 68-65 victory over Santa Rosa to open the postseason; Giants advance to the sweet sixteen face San Joaquin Delta on the road

And her decisive action helped secure a spot in the state’s Sweet 16 for College of the Sequoias’ women’s basketball team.

Ricci took a near length-of-the-court overhand pass from Geizzle Jones and sprinted straight for the basket, scoring a layup with 11 seconds remaining to provide the final points as the seventh-seeded Giants overcame No. 10 Santa Rosa 68-65 on March 2 at Porter Field House in the second round of the Northern California Regional playoffs.

The freshman from Seattle, Wa., could have held onto the ball, milked more seconds off the clock and waited to get fouled. Instead, she put more pressure on the Bear Cubs, who were a state Final Four participant last season.

“I was just like ‘you’re open, go attack it,'” Ricci said. “I figured we were only up by one, let’s get it to three. It was a wide-open layup, so I was like, might as well take it and make them hit a three (to tie).”

Santa Rosa (19-11) had a chance to tie, but Reese Searcy’s 3-point attempt with 4 seconds left was off the mark and Sequoias’ Darleth Felix (Tulare Union High) grabbed the rebound as time expired, allowing the Giants (20-9) to move on to one of four NorCal Regional finals.

Sequoias is set to face second-seeded San Joaquin Delta (25-4) at 7 p.m. March 9 in Stockton, with the winner advancing to the California Community College Athletic Association’s Elite Eight tournament, scheduled for March 14, 16-17 at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.

The Giants entered the fourth quarter against Santa Rosa down by four points (55-51).

The deficit grew to nine points (60-51) following a 3-pointer by JJ Martinez with 8:56 left in the game.

Sequoias responded with a 9-0 run, capped by a Kyla Wandick (Bakersfield) free throw at the 3:40 mark, to tie the score 60-60.

The lead would change hands five times before Jones (Bullard-Fresno) grabbed an offensive rebound and fed a wide-open Ricci for a layup with 26 seconds remaining to put Sequoias ahead for good at 66-65.

“It was definitely a hard-fought win,” said Ricci, who finished with 13 points, nine rebounds, two assists and a steal. “We just pulled it out. That’s been the story of our season, barely holding on. But I’m happy we got it.”

The Giants were led offensively by Wandick, who slashed and drove her way to a game-high 31 points on 11 of 17 shooting from the floor. Wandick also had six rebounds, three assists and two steals.

“Kyla Wandick was amazing tonight,” Giants coach Doug White said. “She showed she’s one of the best point guards in the state.”

The sophomore transfer also converted 8 of 12 free throws, leading a 15-of-21 effort from the line by Sequoias overall.

“We’ve told them to get to the line 20 times a game,” White said of the Giants’ formula for success. “We got there 21 times tonight. That made the difference.”

Jones finished with six points, three assists, a rebound and a crucial five blocked shots. Felix grabbed seven rebounds.

Sequoias also received four points, four rebounds, three steals, two blocks and an assist from Anisa Torres (Caruthers); five points, five assists, and a rebound from Taylor Whitfield (Sierra Pacific-Hanford); four points, four rebounds and a steal from Sarah Upshaw (Las Vegas); three points, three rebounds and three assists from Teresa Sandoval (Hanford West); and two points, two rebounds, two assists and a steal from Andrea Perez (Porterville).

“We added some more plays and some more things, so I knew we were going to be able to pull it out today,” said Wandick, who was a first-team All-Central Valley Conference and third-team All-NorCal Region team selection. “We’re playing where we want to be playing. We’re all doing good as a team. We’re practicing hard and we’re playing hard.”

Sequoias will be aiming to reach the state’s Elite Eight for the third consecutive season, and for the seventh time in the past nine championship seasons. Standing in their way is a Delta team that is ranked sixth in the state and is coming off a 61-41 demolition of No. 15 seeded San Mateo. The Giants and Mustangs have not met this season despite playing in the same tournament twice before conference play began.

Delta is led by second-team All-NorCal Region pick Maya Chelini, who averages 12.8 points, three rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

The Mustangs are riding an eight-game winning streak and are 11-1 on their home court this season.

“It will be a hard game,” Ricci said. “But I think we’re excited and up for the challenge.”

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