Eagles charge into semifinal

Johnson leads third-quarter surge as Del Oro pulls away
By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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LOOMIS ” Emilie Johnson led Del Oro to a No. 3 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III basketball playoffs. On Thursday night, the senior point guard carried the third-ranked Golden Eagles into the semifinals. Johnson had seven of her game-high 24 points and two assists during 12-0 run late in the third quarter that blew open a close game and Del Oro cruised into Wednesday's semifinals with a 61-41 win over No. 6 El Camino at Robert K. Bonner Gymnasium. The teams exchanged leads eight times in the first half. El Camino trailed 35-34 after a pair of Kristen Huffman free throws with 2:47 remaining in the third quarter. Johnson started the game-changing spurt with two free throws of her own, fed Stevi Bair for a basket moments later and nailed a 3-pointer with 33 seconds left in the quarter to extend the Del Oro (23-4) lead to 47-34. El Camino never closed the gap back to single digits. That's just our team intensity, said junior post Courtney Nolen, who had four points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. We have intensity whenever it gets close. We just say, OK, we need to buckle down and get it done.' The third quarter run stunned El Camino (20-8), which had stayed in the game largely due to a tenacious press and timely shooting in the first half. It wasn't so much surprise because we knew what they were doing, Del Oro head coach Mike Takayama said. I'm not sure if it was paralysis by analysis, but we knew what they were going to do, yet we didn't really execute very well against it. We didn't really turn it over, but you could tell we were a little hesitant in things we were doing and it kind of carried over in the half-court sets. Del Oro trailed 21-18, its largest deficit, on a Rebecca Ciszewski basket with 2:41 left in the second quarter. The hosts took a three-point lead into the intermission on a Johnson-to-Bair bucket with 25 seconds left and a Bair-to-Johnson layin at the buzzer. Del Oro outscored El Camino “ which finished in a three-way tie with Loretto and Bella Vista atop the Capital League standings “ 37-20 over the final two quarters. Del Oro outrebounded the visitors 21-11 in the second half, many of those coming on offense and resulting in second-chance baskets. Bair scored nine for Del Oro, while Kaitlin Lewis had a team-high 13 rebounds, six points, three assists and three steals. The win, Del Oro's ninth straight, earns the Golden Eagles a semifinal showdown against defending section champion Sacramento Wednesday in Galt. The second-ranked Dragons beat No. 15 Manteca 113-43 in the opening round Tuesday and cruised past No. 7 Sonora 91-54 Thursday night. I definitely think we're prepared, Nolen. We certainly have the dedication and the heart, and we have the motivation. We haven't gone to Arco since '99 I believe. I'm very confident in our team right now. We're confident that we're going to be able to compete with them, Takayama said of the Dragons. This is the point we've gotten to the last few years, and to get to the NorCals, you have to get to the section game. This will definitely be a big step forward for our program if we can get a win, but they're going to definitely be a tough obstacle.