Rocklin girls hang on in playoff opener

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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Allison Willie made her coach eat his words Tuesday night. Rob Ferraro had no problem doing so after his Rocklin High School girls basketball team won in its Sac-Joaquin Section playoff opener. Ferraro gives his players the freedom to launch 3-pointers as long as “their feet are set and they’re open.” Willie could not have been much more open when she hoisted one in the fourth quarter. Willie’s long-distance shot with 32 seconds to play swished through the net. It turned out to be just enough for Rocklin to hold off Vacaville for a 67-61 victory in the Division II first-round thriller. The Thunder (18-10) advances as the No. 6 seed to face No. 3 El Camino, which routed Rio Linda 84-41. The Eagles (27-1) will carry an 18-game winning streak into Thursday’s 7 p.m. game. As Rocklin advances, Whitney’s girls saw their season came to an end with a 51-46 loss at El Dorado in the Division III playoffs. Freshman Morgan Green led the Wildcats (13-15) with 20 points. Junior Alex Rodriguez added 18. Ferraro was not thinking about El Camino as his players celebrated after Tuesday’s win. He was trying to catch his breath after his team nearly let a 12-point lead slip away in the fourth quarter. Rocklin trailed 30-24 at halftime and 43-41 after three quarters. Senior Erin Dean sank a 3–pointer early in the fourth quarter put Rocklin ahead to stay and ignite a 16-2 run by the Thunder. The Thunder appeared to be in control after another 3-pointer by Dean capped the run and gave Rocklin a 57-45 lead. Vacaville (13-13) refused to go down without a fight. The Bulldogs clawed back to cut the margin to three points with 51 seconds remaining when freshman Julia Deponte drained a 3-pointer. On Rocklin’s ensuing possession, Ferraro would have preferred for Willie to allow a few seconds to tick away before taking a shot. There was just one slight problem, however. She was open. And her feet were set. “I was on tonight, so I went for it,” Willie said. “I think the plan was to work the clock, but I was wide open.” Ferraro asked Willie about the shot after the game and was surprised as he listened to her response. “She read me back my own words,” Ferraro said. “Ninety-nine times out of 100, that’s a great shot. That was that one time it wasn’t.” Sophomore Lydia Summers led Rocklin with 18 points. She was 9-for-9 at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. Willie added 16 points, and junior Joie Camalo contributed 11. Two layups by Camalo capped a 6-0 run by Rocklin to end the third quarter and cut Vacaville’s lead to two points. Brianna French scored 25 points for Vacaville, but the 6-foot senior managed just nine in the second half as Ferraro used three players – including 6-6 sophomore Jaimie Curtis – to contain French. Sophomore Haylie Holbein added 13 points for the Bulldogs.