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March 5, 2014

Sierra Routs City College of San Francisco

Wednesday’s northern California Regional Semifinal began as a frenzied shootout between two of the top women’s basketball teams in the state. It ended in a decisive rout by a Sierra College team that is peaking at just the right time.

The fourth-seeded Wolverines ran past, around, over and through the #5 City College of San Francisco Rams 82-57 to advance to their fourth Elite Eight in head coach Brandie Murrish’s eight years at Sierra. A relentless Wolverine transition game fueled by a hostile, game-long full-court press produced five Sierra players who scored in double figures and left the battered Rams with a long ride back to The City.

“Our defense was on point,” Murrish said afterwards. “The players said they wanted to play angry on defense. We took three charges, made some big blocks and steals that really changed the momentum late in the first half.”

CCSF wanted to get the ball into the hands of All-State forward Tatsiana Dashkevich and let her create. The Rams looked to push the ball inside for scoring opportunities from their post players or dump it back outside for wide-open three-pointers. That strategy had produced a 25-3 record and a Coast-North Conference title.

While Dashkevich maneuvered her way to a game-high 17 points and the Rams converted eight threes, Sierra’s trio of bigs, Haleigh Lis, Tina Mandich and Jasmine Shedrick, set a bruising tone that held CCSF’s muscular Geena Greene scoreless and frontcourt mate Kiah Knox to ten.

“Going into the game, I never would have thought our posts would be the more physical posts,” said Murrish. “They were playing hard, banging and knocking people around.”

Even the smooth, athletic Dashkevich had to work harder than usual for her points, thanks to Dakota McLarnan. “Dakota set the tone against her by making her work just to try to get open,” Murrish said. “(CCSF’s) top seven players are legit, inside and out, and we wanted to make them work for everything.”

The game opened at a frenetic pace that ignited the capacity Goto/Goldenberg Court crowd. The teams traded baskets until Sierra (23-8) crept out to a 37-28 lead with just over six minutes left in the first. Five straight points by the Rams’ Raquel Torres made it 37-34 before Sierra’s Aliya Davis keyed a 15-6 Wolverine run. Davis scored seven points inside the 5:26 mark to lead Sierra to a 52-37 halftime advantage.

All this without Sierra’s All-State guard Ericka Magana, who went to the bench with two fouls with 13:55 left in the first. Magana’s triple double had almost single-handedly sent Ohlone packing in the NorCal quarterfinal, but her time on the bench against CCSF was barely noticed.

“That just shows the balance we have on this team,” noted Murrish of Magana’s absence. “Davis stepped up, (Ashley) Jenkins stepped up, Dakota showed tremendous leadership at both ends. But our freshmen showed what they can do after a tough preseason schedule and, of course, the Big 8.”

If Davis was responsible for the late first-half run, it was fellow freshman Jenkins who provided the game-long consistency. Jenkins finished with a team-high 13 points, to go with eight rebounds, six assists and three steals. Magana had eight rebounds, and five assists along with nine points.

“Our point guards (Jenkins and Magana) executed our game plan perfectly,” said Sierra assistant Scott Pisik. “Our one jammed them at the point on nearly every possession and (the Rams) haven’t seen that in their league all season.”

Mandich opened the second half with a pair of buckets that gave Sierra a 56-37 lead. Back-to-back buckets from Torres helped the Rams close to with 58-45 at 13:00, but they would get no closer.

“We wore them down in the second half and forced them to play transition defense,” Murrish said.

A Magana three made it 78-43 with 6:30 left. Lis hit a jumper from the free-throw line and Knox made a short jumper to close out the scoring and bring the home crowd to its feet.

“We made some big plays, especially in the first half, that really got the crowd into the game,” said Murrish. “They were excited about the defensive plays, the steals, the blocks, the charges, not just the big scoring plays.”

Shedrick (12 points), Lis (seven) and Mandich (eight) combined for 27 points up front. Super-sub Joie Camalo contributed 11, and Davis and McLarnan had 10 each.

Next up for Sierra is Big 8 Conference rival and #1 North seed San Joaquin Delta College (26-5) in Saturday’s Regional Final at 7:00pm in Stockton. Sierra opened the Big 8 with a 69-63 win at Delta last November. The Mustangs pulled out a tense 86-79 OT win in Rocklin January 31.

“Delta is a lot like us,” said Murrish, looking ahead. “They like to use their bench, they want to run, and they can hit threes. But, like always, it will boil down to rebounding and the transition game.”


February 28, 2014

Sierra Wipes Out Ohlone College in Play-offs

The Sierra College women’s basketball team will go as far as Ericka Magana takes them. That was never more evident in Friday’s NorCal quarterfinals as the Wolverine point guard’s triple-double led fourth-seeded Sierra to a 79-53 wipeout of #13 Ohlone College at Goto/Goldenberg Court in Rocklin.

Magana, recently named to the California Community College Athletic Association All-State team, finished with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists to power the Wolverines (22-8) into Wednesday’s regional semifinal in Rocklin. The sophomore from Inderkum High School was relentless as she weaved through a bewildered Renegade defense, converting numerous layups and finding open Wolverines for easy buckets.

“Ericka set the tone,” said Sierra mentor Brandie Murrish. “She was not going to be denied. She has shown tremendous growth since last year. Just look at her going 10-13 from the line tonight. She came up big when it mattered.”

It took Magana only ten seconds to get things going after she corralled the opening tip and found a streaking Tina Mandich at the left side of the lane for a layup. Four whirlwind minutes later, the Wolverines (22-8) were up 12-2 and the Renegades (19-10), who would get no closer, were about to get blown out of the gym.

A stifling Sierra press held Ohlone to only seven first half buckets as the Wolverines headed to the locker room with a 43-24 lead. Magana had four of her six steals in the first half and each of them led to points. The Renegades had no answer for the Wolverine defense and transition game, even though they came in knowing exactly what they were getting themselves into.

Sierra and Ohlone had met three times since early last season. The Renegades won the 2012-2013 season opener 48-45 at Ohlone, but were humiliated by Sierra 81-60 in a 2013 NorCal regional semifinal game in Rocklin. The Wolverines outlasted the Renegades 72-65 in this season’s second game in November.

“Ohlone wanted revenge,” said Murrish afterwards. “They have a lot of weapons, but, having played them as often as we had, we knew our pressure could wear them down. They wanted to stop our three-point shooters and force us to beat them with our inside game, which is exactly what we wanted to do.”

The Renegades did limit Sierra’s sharpshooters. Long-range ace Dakota McLarnan was two of five from beyond the arc and super-sub Joie Camalo was one for four. McLarnan and Camalo usually have nine attempts before the popcorn machine is warmed up, but Sierra’s transition game provided so many inside opportunities they didn’t need to fire up anything long.

The primary beneficiary of Sierra’s inside focus was the 6-1 Mandich, who finished with a career-high 22 points. The Woodcreek high school product was 9-14 from the field, all from five feet or closer, thanks to five offensive rebounds and the aforementioned Magana passes. Fellow post player Jasmine Shedrick, who finished with 10 points, teamed with Mandich to execute the Murrish game plan to perfection.

“Our post game looked the best it has all season,” Murrish said. “Tina was so effective playing through contact and she and Jaz knew exactly where they were supposed to be.”

The Renegades ran out of gas early trying to break Sierra’s full-court press and keep up the Wolverine fast break. The fitness disparity between the teams, particularly in the second half, was glaring. Murrish credited a unique method for this.

“We’ve been working out at Rocklin Crossfit all season. They have given us a new sense of confidence and pushed these athletes to a different level.”

Sierra’s lead hovered near 25 points for most of the second half, allowing the capacity crowd to see all 12 Wolverines. The home crowd, many of them decked out in cardinal and white “Hello Playoffs” t-shirts, earned praise from Murrish, too.

“Our fans give us an amazing home court advantage. You play so hard during the regular season to get home playoff games. Our fans, Roz Goldenberg and our game management staff, and our table create the best atmosphere of any community college I’ve seen in the state.”

Perhaps Ohlone’s Megan Scully summed up the Goto/Goldenberg Court advantage best. As the exhausted 5-9 forward emerged from the Renegade locker room after the game, she said, “I hate playing here. We never win here. The whole place just wears me out.”

The Wolverines host fifth-seeded City College of San Francisco (25-3), 98-80 winners Saturday night over Contra Costa, Wednesday night at 7:00pm. CCSF, much like Ohlone, is a familiar foe for Sierra. The Rams hung on for a 72-63 win in the championship of the 2013 Sasha Brown Classic at Sierra last November.

All-State forward Tatsiana Dashkevich is the Rams’ leading scorer, but CCSF has a solid eight-player rotation that looks to dominate inside. “Their posts really get after it,” said Murrish. “They are good rebounders, they are explosive, and, like us, their defense and transition game sets the tone.”

Wednesday night’s winner faces either #1 San Joaquin Delta (25-5) or #8 Merced (21-9), who meet in Stockton in the other semifinal, in the Regional Final on March 8. The CCCAA state championship tournament will be March 14-16 at Cerritos College.

For more information, contact Matt Folsom at mfolsom@sierracollege.edu or (916) 337-2092.


January 10, 2014

Sierra over Diablo Valley College, 90-65

If you looked up the word "incendiary" in your Funk & Wagnall's Friday night, the definition would have been accompanied by a picture of Dakota McLarnan. The Sierra two-guard from El Dorado Hills was molten as she drained ten three-pointers—seven in the second half—to lead the Sierra College women's basketball team to a 90-65 immolation of Diablo Valley College in the Big 8 home opener in Rocklin.

McLarnan finished with a career-high 32 points and etched her name in the Wolverine record book right behind former Sierra All-Stater Tamar Gruwell, who hit 12 threes on her way to 45 points in a 2007 Wolverine win over Modesto in the Shasta Invitational. McLarnan's 32 eclipsed the 24 points from Viking sharpshooter Dericka Vance, who tops the Big 8 in scoring with 23.7 a game.

Sierra point guard Ericka Magana had another dominate game with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists, while Ashley Jenkins had 10 points, 6 boards and 3 helpers. The Wolverines (13-4, 2-0 Big 8) jumped out to a 29-9 lead and, while DVC (11-6, 0-2) got to within 13 midway through the second half, Sierra was in front by 20 or more most of the game.

— Matt Folsom, Twitter @#sierrasports

January 7, 2014

Clutch threes and free throws help slide Sierra past Delta, 69-63

Going into their matchup with the state’s fourth-ranked team, coach Brandie Murrish and her ninth-ranked Wolverines would need both outside shooting and free throws to return home with a win.

In the final minutes of a classic roller coaster game Tuesday night in Stockton, they got both.

Sierra outlasted San Joaquin Delta College 69-63 in a Big 8 Conference opener that wasn’t decided until the final 19 seconds. Dakota McLarnan hit a three with 1:29 left to give Sierra a 63-60 lead, and then Joie Camalo made it 66-60 with a long-range bomb of her own.

“I wasn’t really thinking when the ball left my hands,” said Camalo afterwards. “I was just so happy the shot dropped when it did.”

The Mustangs (12-4, 0-1 Big 8) didn’t go quietly however as Kelci Haueter drained a three from the top of the key to make it 66-63 with :31 to go. Delta had burned all its timeouts and was forced to foul, sending Sierra point guard Ericka Magana to the line. Magana calmly drained both ends of the one-and-one to give Sierra (12-4, 1-0) a 68-63 lead at the :19 mark.

“When the first one dropped I finally was able to relax,” said Magana. “I knew what had to be done and thankfully things worked out for us tonight.”

Magana sealed things by hitting the front end of an and-one with five seconds left.

Camalo would finish with 15 points, while Erica Magana and Tina Mandich reached double figures with 10 and 12 points respectively.

 — Keith Jouganatos, Twitter @Keith_PT

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