Marissa Fabian fought back emotions toward the end of the fourth quarter and after Lodi beat Tokay 53-29 in a Tri-City Athletic League girls basketball game at The Jungle on Thursday.
But the four-year guard, plus her fellow six seniors on the Lodi squad, are hoping that the Sac-Joaquin Section will give them one more game.
Lodi (6-4 in the TCAL, 15-12) has reached the playoffs almost every season this decade. But the standings have St. Mary’s in first place and automatically earning the TCAL’s top playoff berth. Lincoln (9-2 in TCAL entering Thursday’s game against St. Mary’s) is in second place and Modesto Christian (9-3 in the TCAL) third and Lodi fourth.
On Saturday, the section will release the brackets for the girls and boys’ playoff brackets on its website — cifsjs.org — for all seven divisions. The playoffs start Monday.
“We’ll keep our fingers crossed,” said Lodi coach Brandon Shea.
Fabian, along with fellow seniors in forwards Ellie Van Tassel and Brooke Aberle, guards Calista Morita and Rachel Avellar and centers Veronica Alejandrez and Isabella Fugazi, played more than half of the minutes in each quarter of the game. Their dominance in forcing Tokay (0-10 in the TCAL, 5-20) into turnovers in the first quarter that led to a 14-0 run, and leading 16-4 after the first eight minutes of the game.
The Flames continued to burn past the Tigers’ defense at the start of the second quarter. Thanks to more half-court pressure defense that led into more Tokay turnovers, Lodi sat on a comfortable 26-6 halfway through the quarter.
“We came out, we wanted to win,” Fabian said. “I wish we would’ve done a little better. But it was a good last time playing with all of the girls.”
Then Tokay guard Mia Misasi and company took over the last four minutes of the quarter. Thanks to teammates in guards Simone Medeiros and Mio Moriki, a foreign exchange student from Japan, forwards Madison Gonzales and Rubie Dhillon, Medeiros scored seven of her nine points in the quarter. One of her baskets she created thanks to forcing a Lodi turnover, and racing back to the west end of the court. The Tigers’ scoring led to Lodi leading only 29-15 at halftime.
“We went on a little bit of a run and got back in it,” said Tokay coach Shanel Mischal.
Then Fabian, along with Van Tassel, Aberle, Morita and Alejandrez, plus Fugazi and Avellar coming off the bench, continued where they left off back in the first half. More pressure after the Tigers reached half-court led to more turnovers and offensive opportunities for the Flames. That led to a 29-17 score under two minutes left in the quarter.
Van Tassel, along with Fabian and Morita, put the finishing touches on their cross-town rivals to make the score 36-17. Van Tassel hit a 3-pointer while Fabian and Morita each hit a basket. Lodi led 42-21 at the end of the quarter.
“Then we turned around and it was like a six or 8-0 run,” said Mischal of the Flames’ run in the third.
In the last two minutes of the final quarter, Shea, who had already pulled his starters in Fabian, Van Tassel, Aberle — who was the TCAL’s co-MVP last winter — Morita and Alejandrez out of the game, shook hands and hugged with each senior, plus Fugazi and Avellar. As the final minutes ticked off the clock, most of the girls felt that they were playing their final high school basketball game of each of their lives.
“We were just taking in the moment,” Fabian said. “Coach was telling us how grateful he was to have us over the years. It was kind of emotional.”
Shea added, “This group of seniors has been a good group. They are fun to be around. A group of girls I’m going to miss. It’s just hard to see it come to an end.”
Tokay, too, struggled with its three seniors in Gonzales, Dhillon and Moriki playing their final prep basketball game. Mischal, a 2003 Tokay High graduate, spent a lot of time in the locker with the trio and the rest of the team after the game.
Morita was the Flames’ leading scorer with 12 points. Van Tassel followed with 11 points, Aberle nine and Fabian, along with junior forward Hannah Wilson, had three points each. Junior guard Ashlee Toy, plus Alejandrez and Fugazi, had two points each, and Evans one.
Dean was the Tigers’ leading scorer with 11 points. Misasi had nine points, Medieros three, guard Micaela Algoso, Gonzales and forward Sunna Khan two each.
Contact Mike Bush at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.