SACRAMENTO — The Vanden High girls basketball team picked the absolutely, undoubtedly, positively and unquestionably worst time to play its most disappointing quarter of the season.
The Vikings took a six-point lead into the fourth quarter, but went scoreless for nearly seven minutes in falling 45-38 to Florin of Sacramento in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinals at Cosumnes River College, Tuesday.
“We blew it, we just blew it,” Vanden coach Allison Johnson said. “We had three straight turnovers (during a key fourth-quarter stretch). We just blew it.”
The top-seeded Vikings (23-6) were without senior forward Mariah Williams and sophomore guard Kiana Moore, two key starters, but fourth-seeded Florin (21-9) entered the game with just nine players in uniform and lost one in pregame warmups, another early in the first quarter.
“It wasn’t the injured players,” Johnson said. “We had enough to get it done, we just didn’t do it.”
Vanden led 34-28 after three quarters, but had 13 straight empty possessions before finding the net and gave up 11 straight points.
The Panthers weren’t lighting it up either until Jikara Sellers hit back-to-back 3-pointers, the first putting them ahead to stay at 35-34 with 4:01 left in the game.
Julia Blackshell-Fair finally stopped the bleeding by banking in a 3-pointer with 1:17 to go, cutting Vanden’s deficit to 39-37
The Vikings’ only other point in the quarter came on a Kayla Blair free throw with 41.4 seconds to go, keeping it a two-point game at 40-38.
After Sellers sank two free throws, Vanden missed three straight 3-point attempts before Florin’s Kynnidi Ricardo was fouled after getting the defensive rebound.
She hit one of two free throws, as did Jasjanay Sellers and Jikara Sellers after the Vikings failed to get the rebound after the first two missed the second of their two foul shots.
Vanden appeared to be poised to take control of the game early as Azanaé Lewis made a steal immediately after entering the game and turned it into a layup to put the Vikings up 13-7 with 53 seconds to go in the first quarter, which ended with Vanden up 13-8.
The Vikings opened the second quarter on a 5-1 run to extend their lead to 18-9, but the Panthers closed the period on a 10-2 run to trail just 20-19 at the half.
Two Dalayna Sampton free throws gave Florin its first lead since midway through the first quarter at 21-20 and there were three more ties before Vanden closed the third period on an 8-2 run for its 34-28 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
And what a dreadful final eight minutes they were for the Vikings, who shot just 6.7 percent (1 for 15) and turned the ball over six times.
Blair led Vanden with 16 points, but Blackshell-Fair was the only other Viking close to double figures with nine.
“I feel sad for the girls, it’s like I’m alone on an island,” Johnson said. “For many it’s their last opportunity to win a Sac-Joaquin Section championship. This team will never be back there again. . . There’s still the NorCals. We’ll just have to do it there.”
Seedings for the Northern California Regionals will be announced Sunday afternoon with the Vikings likely opening on the road.
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.