Placer girls qualify for postseason

By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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You kidding me?
Having just finished their preseason slate, the Placer girls basketball team has already qualified for the playoffs.
No kidding. 
The Lady Hillmen used an opening 19-0 run Thursday night at Earl Crabbe Gym to record yet another blowout victory, this time beating visiting Yuba City 72-34 and improving to 15-2.
“I’m really excited and proud of our team,” said three-year varsity player Ari Jensen, who was a part of a squad last season that needed a win in the regular season finale to advance to the playoffs and didn’t get it.
Placer held the Honkers (3-7) scoreless until the second quarter. In all, 14 girls scored for the victors, who were led by Lauren Collins’ 11-point night and another 10 from Maddie Graham. 
Others contributing in the form of points included Maya Thomas (2), Kasey Miller (1), Baylee Vanderdoes (6), Raquel Quirarte (6), Fiona Ochs (2), Rachael Wiebelhaus (2), Jensen (6), Mariah Velasquez (2), Kerry McCullough (9), Kirstin Schauble (8), Janelle Pickard (3) and Olivia Holmes (3). 
Having not played since Dec. 22, the local ladies showed no signs of rust after taking a 16-0 lead after one quarter of play. 
“We looked good,” Placer coach Tony Camillucci said. “Our press helped us out again. I know we won’t be able to use that all the time in league. We’ve been scouted pretty thoroughly.”
The outcome of Thurday’s game was never in doubt. Placer has now won 11 games by 25 points more on the young season. 
Though they clinched a playoff spot, it wasn’t necessarily a night for the Lady Hillmen to celebrate.
Late in the game senior Holmes went down with an ankle injury. Holmes, who Camillucci considers one of his top rebounders and defensive players, appeared to be in a lot of pain. She’s had ankle problems in the past, Camillucci said.
She had to be helped off the court. When Holmes sat down on the Placer bench, all of Yuba’s players on the court came over to shake her hand. The uncommon gesture received a round of applause from the home crowd. 
“I’m really bummed about Olivia,” Camillucci said. “I hope her ankle is OK. She’s a big part of our defense. That would be a big hit (if she were to miss games).”
The Lady Hillmen open Pioneer Valley League play Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Auburn against Colfax (9-7). Though Placer’s already in the playoffs, don’t expect the Lady Hillmen to let off the gas anytime soon.
“Our main goal is to win league,” said Camillucci, who still plans on having the girls hitting the weight room three times a week. “That’s what we set out to do.”
Reach Matthew Kimel at Follow him on Twitter @matthewkimel