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By Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian
BY STEPHEN LYNCH Special to The Californian
This one was personal for the Ridgeview girls basketball team. The Wolf Pack felt it had a score to settle with Independence after last year's painful 49-46 loss to the Falcons in the Central Section Division III championship.
Consider things even now. Ridgeview is headed back to Selland Arena in Fresno for a fourth straight title game appearance following its 62-33 Division II semifinal rout of visiting Independence on Tuesday.
The top-seeded Wolf Pack (25-3) overwhelmed the No. 5 Falcons (15-12) from start to finish.
"This game meant a lot to us because of what happened last year in the valley (championship game),"Ridgeview coach Michael Martin said. "We didn't forget. We've been wanting to play them again."
Led by McDonald's All-American Erica McCall, Ridgeview opened an 8-0 lead and was never seriously threatened by a scrappy but outmanned Independence squad.
"(This) was a big win because it was a really personal game to us," McCall said. "(Last year) they took something away that we couldn't get back. So we knew we had to come out here and play hard so we could get this win and go to valley again."
McCall had 23 points, 14 rebounds, four blocked shots, and four steals for Ridgeview, which will face second-seeded Garces for the Division II title on Friday.
The Wolf Pack beat the Rams 59-38 earlier this season.
Candace Wilkerson had 14 points and Alex Green nailed a pair of 3-pointers and four free throws for Ridgeview on Tuesday night.
Erin Cantrell led the Falcons with 11 points.
Ridgeview committed six fewer turnovers (21-15) than Independence and dominated the offense glass.
The Wolf Pack was 20-of-71 (28 percent) from the floor while the Falcons made 13-of-47 (28-percent) from the field.
McCall was 7-of-23 from the field but drew numerous fouls. She made 8-of-11 free throws.
"I was rushing my shots a lot," McCall said. "One thing I really need to work on, in my game, as far as going to college and the rest of my career is just slowing down so I can make a lot more quality shots."
After Vanessa Francisco's basket inside cut the Wolf Pack lead to 22-12 with 2:31 left in the second quarter, McCall scored six straight points with a short baseline shot, two free throws and a put-back of her own miss.
Ridgeview led 30-14 at halftime but quickly thwarted any hope of Independence comeback by beginning the third quarter on a 9-2 run, highlighted by a Wilkerson steal and layup.
"It's a great feeling," McCall said. "We knew we had to work really hard to this. I feel it's a great accomplishment to go every year. But you know a bigger prize is at Selland (Arena). We just want to get that one."
Ridgeview enters the section title tilt against Garces having won 13 games in a row. During that streak, the Wolf Pack outscored its opponents by 39.6 points per game.