Tami Yasuda received blue and white carnations from her American River College players before the start of the state junior college women’s basketball title game Saturday night.
And from that point on, everything came up roses for the Beavers, who--after taking an 18-point halftime lead--coasted to an 80-56 victory over Valley College at Valley. The Lady Monarchs (31-4), who had to rally past top-ranked Fullerton College to advance to the final, offered little resistance against American River (29-4).
“It took us 36 games to play at this level,” Valley Coach Doug Michelson said. “We had 35 strong games and then this. We just did not play well in all aspects of the game.”
The Beavers went on a 21-6 run in the last 6:55 of the first half to take a 46-28 halftime lead. The Lady Monarchs never got closer than 16 points thereafter.
Despite trailing by 18 points at halftime, Valley center Ruth Aguilar said that the Lady Monarchs were confident.
“They did not do anything tonight that we were not prepared for,” said Aguilar, who led Valley with 19 points and 12 rebounds. “We thought we could come back, but they came out strong in the second half and we never got back in it.”
Trailing from the outset, Valley drew within 25-22 on Christine Rumfola’s basket late in the first half. The Beavers then scored 10 consecutive points and held Valley to just a field goal and four free throws for the remainder of the half.
American River wasn’t even expected to reach the championship game but advanced with a dramatic second-half comeback against College of the Sequoias in the semifinals. Freshman Samantha Uding, the tournament’s most valuable player, made a jump shot with one second left to eliminate the Giants and send American River into the final for the second time in three years.
Yet Michelson said Valley, which had won 15 games in a row before Saturday, never underestimated the Beavers.
“I respected them from the start,” Michelson said. “They knocked off (Los Angeles) Trade Tech and Sequoias and that deserves instant respect.
“Besides the fact that we did not play up to our ability, they played well.”
Yasuda, in her 13th season with American River, was surprised by her team’s performance.
“I don’t know why my kids played so well tonight,” Yasuda said. “Our whole game came together for us.”
Neither team shot well from the field. Valley converted only 18 of 66 field-goal attempts and American River was 29 of 73 from the field.
Behind the strong play of Uding, who scored a game-high 24 points, American River kept Valley from establishing momentum. The Lady Monarchs had their lowest scoring output of the championship series after averaging 82.2 points a game during the regular season.
“Our scorers were just not on tonight, but they can’t be on all the time,” Aguilar said.
The usually strong Valley bench was nearly completely shut down. Sandrine Rocher, who scored 20 points against Fullerton, was held to only one Saturday. Aguilar, who was named to the all-tournament team along with Rumfola, was the only scorer for Valley to reach double figures.
Sophomore Julie Lienert--who joined Uding on the all-tournament team--and Pam Pinnick each added 10 points for American River.
Debbie Wagner of Fullerton and Shaulonda Rittenhouse of Sequoias were also selected to the all-tournament team.