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By John Harte / The Californian
BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
The official changing of the guard for the West sisters at Garces won't happen until the Rams' playoff run is over, but younger sister Celeste West made it clear Thursday that she's ready for the spotlight.
Celeste, or C.J., dominated and older sister Rachol assisted as host Garces rolled past Tulare Western 60-41 in the Central Section Division II quarterfinals.
C.J. West, a freshman, had eye-popping totals of 25 points, 23 rebounds and seven blocks, and Rachol, a senior, added 19 points and was awarded a game ball signed by her teammates for reaching the 2,000-point career milestone. "It never came to my mind that I would get to 2,000," said West, who has signed with San Jose State. "It's a huge accomplishment."
But it was little sis who led the Rams to a big first-half lead. C.J. West scored 13 of Garces' first 17 points, with nine of them coming after offensive rebounds. She had a double-double by halftime.
"There was a lot of adrenaline with it being my first playoff game," she said. "We were really pumped up, but I think we all kind of settled down by the middle of the first quarter."
Garces was up 15-5 when Tulare Western star guard DaShayla Johnson, playing her first game in five weeks after breaking her foot, drained back-to-back 3-pointers to get the Mustangs (20-9) back in it. Johnson also beat the buzzer with a 30-footer before halftime to make it 26-21 Rams.
"She hasn't touched a ball in five weeks, and she's still as good as anybody I have," Tulare Western coach Willard Epps said. "She's a high-caliber player, but she couldn't really move without the ball tonight. That was big."
Johnson had 13 of Tulare Western's 21 points by halftime. She finished with 15.
The Rams (26-2) led by just three midway through the third quarter but then went on a 14-0 run that put the game away.
"We didn't play our best basketball tonight," Rachol West said, "but we stayed composed."
That's especially true of C.J., who struggled shooting early but kept scoring off rebounds. "It's just box out, keep your eyes on the rim and get the ball," she said. "I don't think about anything else when the ball is in the air."
By the end of three quarters, she had 20 points and 17 rebounds.
"She's too much," Epps said. "We were going to try to keep her off the boards, but we didn't anticipate she'd be as strong as she is. She has a great future."
Next for Garces is a semifinal date with No. 3 seed Visalia-Redwood, which knocked the Rams out of last year's playoffs.
Win there, and the Rams would get a rematch with No. 1 Ridgeview, one of the two teams to beat Garces this season.