Another banner week for Hillmen hoops
AUBURN– In what was the closest margin of victory for the entire stretch of the Foothill Valley League season, the Placer girls basketball team made it count in the end.
The 60-57 win over Lincoln Thursday night at Earl Crabbe Gym cemented a perfect 10-0 FVL campaign for the Lady Hillmen and the first ever girls basketball title for the newly formed league.
Junior post Anne Lillis lit up for 23 points, including six from beyond the arc, while senior point guard Tyra Al Mujadidi followed with 12 points for Placer.
Despite racing out to a 22-9 lead in the first quarter, Placer entered the fourth up by just one point after Lincoln came out of the intermission renewed. Senior guard Kalyna Kim scored 10 of her team-high 17 points in the third to help Lincoln get on a 24-13 third-quarter effort.
But Lillis and Michelle Chamberlin, who scored five of her seven points in the fourth quarter, kept the Lady Hillmen in front for good.
The FVL banner is the fourth overall league championship for the Placer girls in the past five seasons. It’s also the fourth time since 2006 that the Lady Hillmen have gone unbeaten in league play under head coach Tony Camillucci.
The CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoff committee was set to seed all basketball brackets for Divisions I-VII Saturday afternoon. As of press time, the Placer girls were ranked by MaxPreps as the No. 3 team in D-III. The Lady Hillmen (20-7) will likely receive a home game for at least the first two rounds of the postseason.
Hillmen boys earn FVL co-title
After a 32-point slip-up at Ponderosa Wednesday night, the Placer boys needed a victory Friday to preserve at least a share of the Foothill Valley League crown.
When the dust settled in a packed Earl Crabbe Gym with a deafening crowd, a tenacious contest between two old Pioneer Valley League rivals ended with the Hillmen cutting down the nets.
The 66-46 Placer win allowed the Hillmen to become co-champions of the inaugural FVL season, but it was the fifth consecutive league championship won by the green and gold.
“We came out against Ponderosa and pretty much laid an egg,” said Placer senior Ian Howes. “But tonight we came out in front of a huge Gold Mine. It’s always fun to play in front of our home crowd. We knew this could be our last home game ever, so all of us seniors came out and played as hard as we could.”
During football season, Placer sealed a league-clinching victory against the Zebras on the gridiron with the help of Howes’ tipped pass that broke up a Lincoln scoring strike. Friday night, Howes continued his tormenting of the Zebras. The senior went for 15 points, five steals and four assists.
“There’s always a friendly rivalry,” said Howes. “It gets pretty heated, but that makes sports in high school 10 times more fun. You just want to beat the other school and represent your own school.”
In the first quarter, Howes drove for a tough layup on one end, grabbed a defensive rebound on the other end and went coast-to-coast for another layup in traffic to give the Hillmen an early 8-2 lead.
An intense second quarter saw bodies from both teams diving all over the floor as Placer extended their lead to 40-27 by halftime.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Konner Baroni gave the Hillmen a 55-29 advantage midway through the third quarter – the team’s biggest lead of the night. But Lincoln (18-10, 6-4) hung around and closed the third with 11 straight points.
The Zebras extended their run into the fourth quarter with a 17-3 stretch that cut the deficit down to 11, but the Hillmen wouldn’t allow them to get any closer.
“We started handling (Placer’s) pressure,” said Lincoln head coach Robert Ash. “We hit some shots, we got out in transition, we rebounded on the defensive end and attacked.”
Placer finished the game on its own 11-2 run to seal the victory. Baroni led all scorers with 23 points with four 3-pointers. Max Petrenko added 12 for the Hillmen. Angelo Nicandro led Lincoln with 19 points.
Big postseason implications were at stake Friday for both teams with a number of scenarios that could affect playoff seeding. Lincoln entered Friday as the No. 15 team in MaxPreps’ Sac-Joaquin Section Division II rankings. The CIF takes the top 16 teams in D-II according to their MaxPreps ranking.
Ponderosa finished its regular season with a 77-35 win at Oakmont Friday night to claim the other half of the FVL championship.
The Hillmen (18-10) entered Friday night as the No. 14 team in the Division III rankings by MaxPreps.
“We’re going to work hard day in and day out,” said Baroni on the team’s playoff mindset. “The harder we play and the bigger the crowd, the more motivation we get.”