Things looked bad for the Saddleback women’s basketball team before Saturday’s Southern California Regional Playoff Final game against Ventura College even started.
With ten minutes to go in that game, things got even worse.The Gauchos had to play with only a few seconds of star point guard Cassie Klockgether, who injured her knee during warmups at the VC Athletics Events Center.
And when freshman point guard Justine Chacon went down with a fractured hand in the second half, the Pirates’ potent offense heated up.
Holding one of the states’ top offenses to under 30 points in the first half was a small victory for the Gauchos, but it wasn’t the one they really wanted.
A capacity crowd of 1,686 got what it wanted, though, watching its No. 4 seeded team defeat the No. 5 seeded Gauchos, 67-51, to move on to the state tournament in Stockton.
Saddleback led most of the start, pushing its advantage to 20-16 with 6:50 left in the half before Ventura, who defeated Irvine Valley, 86-37, in the first round one week earlier, surged with a 13-4 run to close out the half with a five-point lead.
The lack of Klockgether’s offensive power, which ranked No. 3 in the Orange Empire Conference with 18.3 points per game, proved to be equally as fatal as the back-to-back turnovers that Ventura capitalized on for easy layups to increase its lead to 63-45 with 1:58 remaining in the game.
Rekeshia Jones led Saddleback with 12 points and four blocked shots, while Ventura found its power shooters in Julie Heurung, Indira Kaljo and Jelelle Conklin.
Heurung, who singlehandedly made up for for her teams’ 0-11 shooting from the field in the first half, finished with a game-high 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Kalijo had 15 points and seven rebounds, while Conklin had 11 points and eight rebounds.
The loss ended the Gauchos’ hot streak in which they won eight of their last night games.
The Gauchos ended their season with a 25-8 overall finish, and one step closer to the state championship than the 2006-07 squad, which was eliminated by Mt. San Jacinto in a 60-55 upset in the first round.
INJURED AND OUT