Woodcreek girls seek another tourney upset

St. Francis the foe in section semifinal
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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The underdog role feels good for the Woodcreek High girls basketball team as it prepares for Wednesday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinal in Stockton.


The No. 5 seeded Lady Timberwolves head to the University of the Pacific to take on top-seeded St. Francis confident in their ability to continue on a run towards a section championship.


“St. Francis traditionally is in the playoffs and their head coach is a good coach who has been there before,” said Woodcreek coach Ray Beck. “As for their experience as a team, they are no more experienced than we are as they were knocked out of the playoffs last year the same round that we were. If anything, they may feel the pressure of being the one with the tradition, the No. 1 seed, the team that is supposed to win. People think we have overachieved.”


Woodcreek (21-8) is playing with great confidence and coming off a dominating win at Fairfield in the tournament’s second round.


Beck is impressed with the way his guards, Theresa Barrow and Maya Cabiness, and sophomore forward Fia Hoskinson have stepped up this season. Guard Joleen Chanco was lost early on with a season-ending knee injury, but the Timberwolves have seen a number of players step up in support of the powerful inside-outside duo of Cara Jones and Jennifer Judge.


The battle with St. Francis (21-7) will likely be decided in the backcourt, as the Troubadors rely on guard play and on turning up the speed of the game.


“We get ready to handle their pressure and their tempo,” Beck said. “Face it, they are a good team that plays hard. We need to match that.”


Junior Beth Balbierz, a 5-foot-10 forward is the leading scorer for St. Francis, averaging just over 10 points per contest. The Troubadors have four other players all hovering around nine points a night.


The Woodcreek coach is not concerned about the venue, and he feels that the larger building at UOP could open up the game.


“The big gym that is more open lends itself to team speed,” Beck said. “They have that with their guard play, but we aren't too slow ourselves.”


Getting to the section semifinals not only gets Woodcreek a shot at the section title, but also earns it a spot in next week’s Northern California playoffs, as the top four teams in each division of the Sac-Joaquin Section move on beyond this week.


“It shows some growth in our program,” Beck said. “It shows that we have been doing some things right. The girls  (which is the key) are working hard and they are developing as players.  It is our girls first time going to NorCals, which is fun and exciting.”


Wednesday’s game tips at 5:30 p.m. at UOP.


Div. I and II girls semifinals tonight at Spanos Center (UOP)

Admission: $12 for adults, $6 for students
Parking: $5
4 p.m. – Vallejo vs. Bella Vista (D-II)
5:30 p.m. – St. Francis vs. Woodcreek (D-II)
7:30 p.m. – Kennedy vs. McClatchy (D-I)
9 p.m. – Oak Ridge vs. Franklin-EG (D-I)


Division II girls final – Saturday, 1 p.m. at Arco Arena
Admission: $17 for adults, $8 for students
Parking: $12 for cars, $30 for buses