SAN FRANCISCO — Missed opportunities.
That’s what Saturday night brought for the Vanden High girls basketball team as the Vikings fell 57-53 to St. Ignatius of San Francisco in the Northern California Division III quarterfinals.
Despite jumping to a 10-6 lead early, the No. 7 Vikings struggled from the free throw line and had trouble finishing at crucial moments throughout.
After Vanden’s Mariah Williams tied it at 53-53 on a pair of free throws with 1 minute, 56 seconds to play, the Wildcats’ Quinci Mann turned around and sank a jumper to give St. Ignatius the lead for good.
A traveling call on Vanden on the next possession all but sealed it for the second-seeded Wildcats.
Poor free throw shooting in the first half and missed layups also hurt the Vikings (27-5) throughout, much as they did in last week’ Sac-Joaquin Section championship game loss to Christian Brothers.
Vanden sank just 6 of 13 foul shots in the first half, while St. Ignatius was a perfect 10 for 10 from the line in the half and sank 11 of 12 in the game.
That was enough to make the difference for the Wildcats, who move on to host Enterprise of Redding in Tuesday’s semifinals.
“Turnovers, missed free throws, missed layups, against any team in the playoffs, you have to have it, the girls have been told that since the beginning of November,” Vikings coach Allison Johnson said. “We know it, the girls know it, we didn’t do it tonight.”
Vanden missed a layup with 2:33 left and the score 53-51 in favor of the Wildcats with 2:33 left in the game.
That and seven fourth-quarter turnovers doomed the Vikings in the end.
Vanden forced 16 turnovers on defense, but just one of those was in the fourth quarter.
“We had our chances down the stretch, we missed a couple of layups that would have tied the game,” said assistant coach and Allison Johnson’s husband, Jake Johnson. “We had like three or four chances. We couldn’t get better looks than we were getting.”
By the end of the game, Vanden’s bench looked like a triage unit, with three key players getting hurt and not returning – two in the fourth quarter.
Even with the injuries, Allison Johnson said her team had enough depth to win the game.
“They were three obviously key players, but we still had enough to get it done, and we didn’t,” she said. “It affects us, but it’s not why we lost. I feel like we were close enough to have our chances at the end and to lose by four, I feel like we had enough to win by four.”
The free throw shooting got better for the Vikings in the second half when they sank 5 of 6.
Of those, four were by Williams, who finished with a team-high 15 points and a game-high 17 rebounds.
Toni Taylor added 11 points for the Vikings and Kayla Blair had nine.
Although it’s the end of the road for the Vikings – and the third straight NorCal quarterfinal exit – this team should return largely intact with just three seniors graduating.