Crean Lutheran battles, but can't keep up with Bell-Jeff


IRVINE - Crean Lutheran's girls basketball team had the best season in school history come to an end Tuesday, when the Saints fell to visiting Bellarmine-Jefferson of Burbank, 50-35, in the CIF Southern California Regional Division V semifinals.

The Saints won just four games last season. Coach Kelsi Walker returned to the program after stepping away to start a family. Walker was proud of her team throughout this playoff run.

“This is the hardest working group I’ve coached. They play for each other,” Walker said. “I almost think they don’t care about winning. They just love coming together and playing together.”

Crean Lutheran (20-12) led Bellarmine-Jefferson, 12-8, after the first quarter but the game's direction soon changed. The Guards outscored the Saints, 15-3, in the second quarter and didn’t allow Crean Lutheran to score a basket in the first seven minutes of the period.

Cosette Balmy dominated both sides of the floor for the Guards. The junior point guard had 17 points, seven steals and grabbed eight rebounds. Dalila Rincan had 17 points for Bellarmine-Jefferson.

“Our goal was to stop the drive. We did a good job holding the back line, but she (Balmy) was beating us,” Walker said. “It’s good experience for us to play teams at this level.”

Crean Lutheran's senior captains played well and didn’t let the team quit. Kylie Needham had nine points and 11 rebounds, and Erin Koyamatsu dished out five assists and grabbed six rebounds.

“Their leadership and their confidence are the biggest things I think we are going to miss,” Walker said.

Saints freshmen Cat Tuccinardi and Shannon O’Malley combined for 14 points and nine rebounds. They are two of the nine underclassmen expected to return for the Saints next season.

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