Emily Elliott, Sage Hill girls’ basketball storm into CIF semifinals
The shots weren’t falling for the Sage Hill School girls’ basketball team in the early minutes of the Lightning’s quarterfinal playoff game against Ridgecrest Burroughs.
The Lightning, though, were unfazed. Emily Elliott got possession and drove to the rim, taking a Euro step before floating in the layup. Then, Kat Righeimer knocked down a three-pointer to take a 5-4 lead. Sage Hill never looked back.
“This is the quarterfinals, so with a chance to go to the semifinals, nerves were high, adrenaline is pumping,” Sage Hill head coach Kerwin Walters said. “Some of them were shooting well out of what they normally do. Once they settled down, you could see that the girls started shooting and shots started to fall. They just had to relax, stay calm and I think that ended up being the difference in the game.”
Led by Elliott’s game-high 16 points, No. 2-seeded Sage Hill ran away with a 49-26 win to advance to the CIF Southern Section Division 3AA semifinals on Wednesday night.
Sage Hill will face the winner of La Quinta at Lancaster, a quarterfinal game scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m.
“I thought our team played really good defense,” Walters said. “I’m just proud of their effort and playing good, solid defense but we still have to improve.”
Elliott shined on both ends of the floor. The 6-foot-1 senior collected nine rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals.
“I think I’ve been playing long enough where it’s easier under the pressure,” Elliott said. “Being out there is like second nature. Being under these high pressure situations, I think we really come out and perform. We train how we play.”
Her defense often turned into a point-scoring opportunity for the Lightning (16-6). In the third quarter, Elliott blocked a shot. The ball fell to junior Isabel Gomez, who dribbled forward before tossing a bounce pass through the legs of a defender to freshman Zoie Lamkin for the layup.
“When we get those blocks, it’s like a snowball effect,” Elliott said. “When we get it, everyone goes crazy. I think everyone feeds off of that energy.”
The second quarter was the decisive one. After Sage Hill led 10-7 following the first frame, the Lightning doubled up to 20 points while holding the Burros (11-1) scoreless.
“To limit a team that’s traveling this far, [Burroughs was] undefeated,” Walters said. “For them to hold a quarter where they didn’t score, that’s really tough to do.”
Sage Hill got production on offense from all five starters, each scoring multiple buckets. In the third quarter, the Lightning created a big enough gap that they could let off the gas, going up 39-16.
The third was the most electric quarter, with both teams shooting well. Gomez, who had just two points at halftime, sank a pair of three-pointers during the Lightning’s 29-9 run in the middle two quarters.
“All our girls tonight, they contributed, put the work and energy into it,” Walters said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Gomez scored eight points to go with 17 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Lamkin added 10 points, five rebounds and three steals, and Emily Eadie also contributed six points, 12 rebounds, four steals and three assists.
The starting five were rotated out well before the end of the game.
In 2019, Sage Hill lost in the first round of the playoffs. This year, the Lightning have earned a spot in the semifinals with a chance to win it all. With a core starting group composed of a senior, a junior and three freshmen, the future beyond this season’s run is bright.
“They’re going to be studs,” Elliott said. “They’re ballers already and they’ve got a long way to go. Their whole games are going to be insane.”
CIF Southern Section Division 3AA Quarterfinals
Sage Hill 49, Ridgecrest Burroughs 26
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Burroughs 7 – 0 – 9 – 10 — 26
Sage Hill 10 – 10 – 19 – 10 — 49
B – Ramon 12, Ly. Sepulveda 5, Browning 4, Venhaus 4, S. Rowland 1.
3-pt. goals – Ly. Sepulveda 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
SH – Elliott 16, Lamkin 10, Gomez 8, Righeimer 7, Eadie 6, Hosseinzadeh 2.
3-pt. goals – Gomez 2, Righeimer 1, Lamkin 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
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