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Richardson, Brea Olinda leave big stage with DI regional title
LONG BEACH – Brea Olinda’s players refer to it as “arena ball,” the product of playing on a significantly larger, foreign stage.
Eyes get a little bigger and shooting percentages drop.
Having played in such a venue before, Ladycats senior Reili Richardson knew the remedy for it: attack the rim.
With her relentless drive and skilled ball handling, Richardson earned 17 trips to the free-throw line Saturday afternoon, and she cashed in all 17. The Ladycats lone senior scored all of her game-high 27 points from 15 feet or closer, keying Brea’s 64-55 victory over Vista Murrieta in the Division I Southern California Regional Championship game at Long Beach State.
“When you have a special player like Reili Richardson – who’s really a once- or twice-in-a-career (talent) – it makes the game easier,” Ladycats coach Jeff Sink said. “We had a couple freshmen get in the game, and everyone else was a sophomore, so it’s always stressful. You wonder if the stage is too big, or if the pressure is too much.
“I was hoping for blissful ignorance on their part, and that seems to be the case.”
The Ladycats (28-4) will play St. Francis of Sacramento on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento for the state title. Brea advanced to the Division III state final last year, but lost by 15 to Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland.
Jasmine Rachal scored 14 points and Tyiona Watkins added 12 for Brea. Rachal served as the team’s only reliable source of offense in the first quarter as she hit three 3-pointers.
The Ladycats took a 16-14 edge into the second quarter and never relinquished the lead. They pulled ahead by 10 points before the half, but the Broncos (30-5) upped their defensive intensity in the second half and kept things tight.
From the 5:10 mark in the third quarter to the 4:30 point in the fourth, Vista trailed by four points or less. In that span, the Broncos had 12 possessions where they could’ve tied the score or taken the lead. They got as close as 44-43, but never tied the score because they were unable to finish at the rim.
Richardson scored 13 points in the final six minutes and was 9-for-9 from the free-throw line down the stretch.
“My 3s weren’t dropping so I just tried to attack,” Richardson said. “We pushed the ball, played good ‘D’ and played smart late. We’re a fourth-quarter team.”
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