BY ESTEBAN RAMIREZ Special to The Californian
The Garces girls carried a grudge into their basketball playoff semifinal Tuesday.
Hosting Redwood, which eliminated the Rams in a Central Section semifinal last season, Garces got the best of the Rangers this season, winning 51-39 in a semifinal on its home court to advance to Friday's Division II final against Ridgeview at Selland Arena in Fresno.
"People underestimate us because we're young but today we showed age is just a number," said Rams forward Rachol West, who in her final home game led Garces with 18 points. "We didn't play like freshmen or like a team with one senior. We played like a team of veterans.
"Last year losing to (Redwood) was a horrible feeling. To come home and lose to them but then to come back this year play the exact same team and beat them, it's the greatest feeling ever. This is the first year that I have ever gone to the finals in Selland Arena and it's a blessing for it to be in my senior year."
The Rams got a solid game from guard Victoria Cruz, who had 14 points, including four 3-pointers. Celeste West added with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Forward Corissa Turley led the the Rangers with 14 points.
The Rams (27-2) started slow, but forced 12 turnovers in the second quarter and built a 30-13 halftime lead.
"We switched our defense," Rams coach Tod Denison said. "We went from man to zone and then back to a man, so we tried switch it around on them a little bit. We knew they could shoot, so we made sure we got out on them."
The Rams stretched their lead to 36-17 with 4 minutes left in the third quarter, but the Rangers cut the deficit to 40-32 with 5:30 left, before Denison called a timeout.
"I just told them to relax and to be fundamentally sound and we'll be OK. Just get back to what got us the lead," said Denison.
Rachol West said she also told the team to stay calm.
"I'm the mother hen and the only senior so I lead them and they listen. The thing I always tell them is to stay calm. They can get frazzled because they're young and inexperienced but I just told them 'stay calm and it's just like practice.'"