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Lady Timberwolves speed past Fairfield

Top-seeded St. Francis up next for Woodcreek
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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Speed kills, and it was one of the key ingredients in the Woodcreek High girls basketball team’s 67-61 playoff road win at Fairfield Thursday night. The Falcons put their physical style to work against Woodcreek, as they attempted to press full court early on. That strategy backfired on Fairfield in a big way as it led to one of the Timberwolves’ most explosive offensive halves of the year. Woodcreek had little trouble moving the ball through the pressure, mostly on the bounce, as Maya Cabiness found herself running alone at the basket or in a 2-on-1 situation numerous times. “We have been trying to convince Maya that any time she takes the court, she is the fastest person on the court,” said Woodcreek coach Ray Beck. “She and Cara Jones were really big for us in that first half.” Add the lay-up drill the Timberwolves were working as they worked the ball in the open court to a hot shooting night from senior forward Jennifer Judge, and you had the makings of a blowout win by the fifth-seeded team in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II tournament. Fairfield (No. 4) may have been the higher seed, but Woodcreek was the better team. Cabiness and Jones each tallied with eight points in the opening half, while Judge led the way, scoring 15. The Timberwolves opened the game on a 7-0 run and built their advantage to 40-26 by the break. That double-digit margin held up for most of the contest, as the Falcons were able to cut it as close as seven at the 3:30 mark of the fourth period, and to six on a late three at the end of the game, but they were never really a threat. As soon as they made inroads, Woodcreek had an answer. For most of the game, Woodcreek’s lead fluctuated between 10 and 16 points. After Fairfield got within three in the fourth, it was a Judge 3-pointer that took it right back to 10 and her team closed it out from there. The first half was a dominant Woodcreek performance, but the second half was more of a battle. Fairfield coach Ricky Swift backed away from the full court pressure defense that was so ineffective, and the teams played more in the half court. “We played a great first half,” Beck said. “In the second half, we were not as good. Defensively we let them in the lane too much. We are a much better team than that. We got a little stagnant on offense as we were struggling to find the balance between running clock and being aggressive offensively.” The Timberwolves did struggle on the backboards, as Fairfield grabbed 14 offensive rebounds. That, and some solid three-point shooting allowed Fairfield to keep the final margin closer than what the game actually was. Alex Rama came off the bench to score 15 points to lead the Falcons, while Hillarie Grant scored 14 points. In the end, there was just too much Judge, as the 5-foot-11 senior drained six treys, and scored 15 points on each side of intermission for a total of 30. She also grabbed 11 boards and four steals. Jones scored 14 points and snagged seven rebounds and Cabiness dished out four assists to go with 12 points. The Timberwolves went a little shorter on the bench in this key playoff contest, and got some very good minutes from sophomore forward Fia Hoskinson and point guard Theresa Barrow. Barrow and Cabiness continue their stellar play in the Woodcreek backcourt. “We lost a very good player back at the start of the year,” said Beck in discussing junior guard Joleen Chanco, who missed the rest of the season with a torn knee ligament. “That was hard for Jo Jo, but I am so proud of Maya and Theresa and the way they have stepped up their games. They have come a long way.” The win does a couple of things for Woodcreek. It sends the Timberwolves (21-8) to the section semifinal next Wednesday at the University of the Pacific. The opponent will be the top seed in Division II, St. Francis (21-7). With the Northern California tournament now welcoming the top four teams from each division in the Sac-Joaquin Section, this victory also guarantees Woodcreek some extra practice time as they will move on to that tournament following the section finals regardless how it goes next week. “I am really happy for this group of girls,” Beck said. “This is a great group. They really play for each other and work for each other. They understand their roles and really work well together.”