Saturday, March 15, 2014

Florin Girls Win First NorCal Playoff

Delayna Sampton made a mistake a week ago she'd like to forget. She fouled  Modesto Christian's Meagan Warwick right at the game's final buzzer, put her at the free throw line with a free chance to win a Section championship. Warwick made both tosses to win the Sac-Joaquin Section's Division III championship, 39-37.

After a stellar all-around performance in Florin's opening game in the NorCal tournament seven days later, a night that included several key shots, 23 points, timely free throws, blocked shots and rebounds, Sampton has put that foul on Warwick completely out of her mind.

She made just one bucket in that Section championship game (yet, grabbed 17 rebounds), so after Saturday's home game, a 49-44 win over Valley Christian of San Jose, she was all smiles.

"I still think there's more under the tank, but I think I played alright," Sampton said.

The Panthers, the No. 4 seed in Division III in NorCals,  made six of its nine shots in the third quarter to take the lead for good and defeat the Warriors, the first time ever Florin has won a NorCal playoff game on its home court.

While the Panthers were making shots in that third stanza, Valley Christian, the No. 5 seed, went cold. A team that thrives on its three-point shooting, the Warriors were only one-for-nine from beyond the arc in that quarter. In the first half, the Warriors were seven-for-17 with threes, nine-of-26 overall as both clubs were tied at 26 at halftime.

"We sprinted out to their shooters in the third quarter because that's where most of their points were coming from," Sampton said.

Sampton and Jikara Sellers made some key buckets early in the third quarter to set the tone for the rest of the game.

"Every team is going to have runs," Florin head coach Larry Price said. "We have to have stops to make our own runs. If we step to the line we have to convert or it will be like it was against Modesto Christian."

Valley Christian was forced to foul the Panthers in the final three minutes of the game to try to overcome a nine-point deficit. Florin responded by making five of six free throws. For the game, the Panthers were 12-of-18, a much better performance than the previous Saturday when Florin was just three-of-11.

Price, who pulled forward Desiree Dedrick off the floor a couple times in the first half to have impassioned discussions with her, plunked a big kiss on her forehead at the conclusion of Saturday's game.

"She has an injury right now and has fought through it," Price said. "She hasn't been to practice in two days, but I told her, 'Big up's to you, you fought through it. You made us a stronger team.' So, I had to give her something."

Dedrick had two key short turnarounds in the second quarter to bring Florin back after the Panthers got behind 23-17. That were her only four points of the contest.

Sellers finished with nine points, Rhianna Jackson had six while Kynnidi Ricardo chipped in five points.

The Panthers now must go on the road Tuesday to take on No. 1 seed in Division III, Enterprise of Redding, a team that is 27-2 this year. They defeated Patterson, 53-43, on Saturday.

"I don't care where we play," Sampton said. "I just want to get out, play hard and end our season with W's."

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