Placer girls victorious in Natomas Tournament

Kerry McCullough: ‘Going into Christmas break with a loss would have just eaten away at my insides’
By: Trevor Horn / Special to the Journal
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The shortest player in stature was the biggest factor Saturday night for the Placer girls basketball team.
Despite allowing a 15-point first half deficit fall to just two with 26 seconds left in the game, the Lady Hillmen beat Franklin 58-56 in the championship game of the Natomas Varsity Tournament.
Franklin inbounded the ball with 13 seconds left in the game next to its own basket, but Kerry McCullough and all 5 feet, 2 inches of her frame knocked away a pass inside the paint as Placer (14-2) regained control as the buzzer sounded — capping off a huge game for the smallest player on the court.
“Kerry, if I can, will never take her off the floor,” Placer coach Tony Camillucci said of his senior captain.
McCullough finished with 11 points, all in the first half as the Lady Hillmen went into intermission with a 36-24 lead.
But Franklin (8-8) rallied back behind clutch three-point shooting and a solid inside game by senior center Madison Wheeler, the leading scorer in the game with 17 points.
But again the game went back to great hustle effort by McCullough and fellow senior guard Olivia Holmes to hold off a late surge from the Wildcats.
“We’ve only had two losses this season and this team had the potential to give us our third,” McCullough said. “We were able to hold on tooth-and-nail at the end and go out of this tournament 3-0 instead of 2-1.”
The win also gives Placer a state-best 14 wins before Christmas break.
“That is amazing. I have never had a team like this. But it is a nice cushion going into league,” McCullough said.
Added Camillucci: “We are very happy with the record going into league …14 wins is awesome.”
It has been a whirlwind the last few weeks for the Lady Hillmen. The team has played seven games in the last 10 games, while having to deal with finals before winter break.
“It is so great,” McCullough said. “Going into Christmas break with a loss would have just eaten away at my insides. Ended on a high note especially after four weeks of just endless basketball is a nice high note.”
Lauren Collins led Placer with 15 points as freshman Baylee Vanderdoes chipped in 11 off the bench.
Placer won’t play again until a final non-league game against Yuba City on Jan. 3 before opening PVL action at home against Colfax on Jan. 9.
The win and the needed time off is an early Christmas present for Placer, as Camillucci said the team was “dead tired” after the win.