McCullough, Placer girls finally beat Bear River

By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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Kerry McCullough thinks she got a little help from above.

With her team trailing and fewer than two minutes to go, McCullough banked a 3-pointer to give her Lady Hillmen the lead for good as the Placer girls basketball team rallied to beat Bear River 48-46 Tuesday night at Lake of the Pines in a pivotal Pioneer Valley League game.

“Wow, that was really lucky,” McCullough said of her shot from downtown. “Tonight is the second-year anniversary of coach Geno Linarez passing. Thinking about that, that last shot was him. You don’t make a three like that without somebody looking out for you.”

McCullough scored a team-high nine points. Kirstin Schauble, Ari Jensen and Raquel Quirarte all added eight apiece for Placer (22-4, 7-2), which would have been eliminated from having a shot at the PVL crown with another loss.

Now it appears likely that Bear River, Colfax and Placer will all get banners — as long as they all can win their favorable matchups on Thursday night.

Placer hosts Foothill, Bear River heads to Center and Colfax hosts Lincoln. All three games are scheduled for 7 p.m.

Savannah Welz had 15 points and Kaitlyn Reina added 13 for Bear River (22-3, 7-2), which most likely would have locked up the league crown with a victory.

The lead see-sawed back and forth most of the night, but the Lady Bruins held a 41-34 advantage near the midpoint of the fourth quarter before Placer rallied back.

“We had that seven-point lead and kind of lost our composure,” said Bear River coach Jeff Bickmore. “They banked in a three and got a little momentum. But we lost our composure and we stopped scoring and running offense.

“… We didn’t finish down the stretch. They played better down the stretch. They hit shots and we didn’t. That was the difference.”

Placer led 48-43 before Welz dropped a trey at the buzzer.   

McCullough and Placer coach Tony Camillucci both said rebounding was a key to the game. It’s also hard to ignore the fact that Placer, behind a 4-for-4 performance by Olivia Holmes, made 17 of 21 foul shots while Bear River shot just 8 of 19 from the charity stripe.

“I thought we rebounded much better than we had in the past,” Camillucci said, referring to prior losses against Bear River. “We really emphasized blocking out. They’re so strong, their post players play so hard. But I thought we did a better job on the boards than the last two times and we made free throws. Another big emphasis for us was to try and get to the line. We haven’t been doing that.” 

The game marked the first time out of three tries this year that the Placer girls had beaten Bear River. Bear River beat Placer in Auburn in a PVL game and the Coach “G” Memorial Tournament title game — which is named after Linarez, who coached basketball and softball at Placer High.

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