Seven senior players on the Lodi High girls basketball team took part in their final regular season home game at The Inferno on Thursday.
But Lincoln cooled off the Flames at the right time in the third quarter. That led to the Trojans posting a 61-44 win over Lodi in a Tri-City Athletic League contest.
The loss may have hurt Lodi (5-4 in the TCAL, 14-12) in its hopes of earning a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth. According to the section’s website — cifsjs.org — the TCAL is only sending the top three teams into post-season. St. Mary’s (16-6 overall) automatically earns the league’s top playoff berth, with Modesto Christian (8-2 in the TCAL, 13-12) in second place and Lincoln (6-2 in the TCAL, 15-9) in third.
Lodi has only one league game left — at Tokay (0-7 in the TCAL, 5-17) next Thursday. The Flames, who have advanced to the playoffs for the last five seasons, lost to both Lincoln and Modesto Christian twice each in league play.
“We’re just going to play it by ear and see what happens,” said Lodi coach Brandon Shea.
Lincoln led 31-19 at halftime. But Lodi used two Trojan turnovers, created when Lincoln players were trying to shoot the basketball from inside the paint, and put backs to trim the Trojans’ lead to 31-27 in the early minutes of the third quarter. The four-point difference came at 5:14 when Lodi guard Calista Morita put the ball back into the basket after teammate in forward Brooke Aberle (14 points and seven of the Flames’ 28 rebounds) missed a 3-point attempt.
“They were executing on offense,” Shea said. “We would rotate (players) and we wouldn’t give them no rebounds. That’s when we made our little run.”
Lincoln coach Christopher Roemer added, “They wanted to get to Aberle and (Lodi forward Ellie) Van Tassel in the middle.”
But back-to-back Lodi turnovers led to Lincoln buckets that upped the lead to 35-27. The Trojans and Flames traded scores to make it 37-29 with 3:06 left in the quarter. Then the Trojans galloped to a 10-3 run the rest of the way for a comfortable 47-32 lead.
“We decided to take that away and force them to make a play,” Roemer said.
Lodi lost some strength in the front court with 3:01 left in the quarter. Van Tassel (12 points and eight rebounds) was whistled for her fourth foul of the game, and sat the rest of the quarter. She returned and played the entire fourth quarter.
“It didn’t hurt us, but it took one of our bigs out,” Shea said. “It’s not just one person that can do everything.”
At the start of the final quarter, Van Tassel, along with junior guard Aiyana Evans, Aberle and guards Marissa Fabian and Ashley Vasquez continued to move the ball around the paint and 3-point line to get some type of offensive rhythm going on the court. But Lincoln’s defense, behind guards Taylor Low (team-high 14 points), Jayla Washington and Lauren Garces and forwards Fajr Cuthbertson (13 points), Analillia Cabuena (10 points), were quick to rebound or deflect passes that were going to a Lodi player outside the paint.
“Tonight, they out executed us and outhustled us,” Shea said.
Lincoln led 15-8 entering the second quarter in which its defense took charge. The Trojans forced the Flames into some of their 10 turnovers, mostly coming at the baseline. That led to a 22-15 lead.
Lodi held a short-lived 6-5 lead in the early minutes of the first quarter. Van Tassel was nails in the paint in the quarter, scoring four of her points. But the Trojans punctured the Flames’ offense with their defense, which led to an 8-0 run and a 13-6 lead.
Aberle and Morita joined Flame teammates in guard Rachel Avellar, Fabian, Van Tassel and centers Veronica Alejandrez and Isabella Fugazi in playing their final regular season home game at The Inferno. Aberle, along with Fabian and Van Tassel, are all three-year starters.
“They fought to the end,” Shea said.
Behind Aberle and Van Tassel in scoring for the Flames were Morita and Fabian with four points each. Guard Ashley Toy and Avellar had three points each and Vasquez and Alejandrez two each. Fabian had six boards.
Contact Mike Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.