Placer girls all smiles in 82-43 playoff defeat

Lady Hillmen still advance to NorCals
By: Trevor Horn / Special to the Journal
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SACRAMENTO – Placer’s girls basketball team showcased Tuesday night what high school athletics is all about. Competing, smiling and enjoying moments with teammates that will last a lifetime, regardless of the scoreboard or the stage they play on.

Despite losing 82-43 to No. 1 seed Christian Brothers, the Lady Hillmen were smiling and cheering each other on, even after the final buzzer sounded in the semifinals of the Sac-Joaquin Section Div. III girls playoffs at Cosumnes River College.

“I am really proud of the way our girls played. They played hard,” Placer head coach Tony Camillucci said.

The Falcons (23-7) used a full-court press throughout the game, grabbed timely rebounds and nailed 3-pointer after 3-pointer to continue an impressive run this season.

Even so, Placer (25-5) played tough and had each others’ back the entire game.

“Our girls never give up and they never quit,” Camillucci said.

“That’s what I love about coaching at Placer High School. I get kids that aren’t year-round basketball players.

“I am sure Christian Brothers has a handful of year-round basketball players. I have seasonal basketball players. But it doesn’t matter, they work hard, they have heart and represent the school the Placer way.”

Placer tied the game at 12-12 early in the second quarter on a shot by Elena Daniel. But Christian Brothers finished off the first half with a 19-0 run and never looked back. Camillucci admitted that the speed of the game was “so different from anything we were used to.”

The Falcons were led by a trio of guards in Niel Valmores (game-high 20 points), Alicia Gonzalez (15) and Ana Burch (13). Christian Brothers led by as many as 42 with seconds remaining in the game.

But Placer kept playing.

And smiling no matter what the scoreboard said.

“They’re an interesting group,” Camillucci said of his team. “They love each other and have fun. We have 17 kids on a team for a whole year and you don’t have any drama on a girls basketball team. They just love each other.”

Even as the game ended with a running clock and junior Maya Thomas at the line shooting free throws, the team cheered on the seldom-used forward while she shot, and made, the second free throw with no time on the clock.

“We are down by 40 but their buddy gets to play who doesn’t hardly get to play,” Camillucci said. “They are (happier) about that then they are upset by the loss. I think that says a lot about the character of your kids.”

Daniel led Placer with 12 points and Lauren Collins chipped in with 10 points.

Kirstin Schauble scored five of her seven points in a 30-second burst in the third quarter as Baylee Vanderdoes (4 points), Ari Jensen (3), Maddie Graham (3), Kerry McCullough (2), Olivia Holmes (1) and Thomas (2) all scored for Placer in the loss.

Placer is eliminated from the section playoffs, but will advance to the NorCal playoffs next week. Pairings will be announced after all section finals are played. With a No. 4 seed in section, Placer will play on the road to start NorCals next week.

And with a smile on his face, Camillucci was still proud of his team and ready to continue this season.

“Losing by (39) is definitely a bummer and it hurts,” he said. “But I wouldn’t trade this group of kids for anything.”

Check back later tonight for pictures and a video from the game.