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The Vintage High girls basketball team secured its second straight outright league title, in the Vine Valley Athletic League this year after winning the Monticello Empire League crown last winter for the first time in 33 years, with a 49-46 nail-biting win over visiting Justin-Siena on Tuesday night.

“It was a hard-fought, close battle throughout,” Crushers head coach Joe Donohoe said. “Justin-Siena gave us all we could handle. It was very satisfying to be able to win the pennant and honor our seniors on the same night.”

Those seniors – team manager America Ramirez and players Alany Flores, Maite Macias, Maya Sapienza, Emily Harlow, Dellaina Morse, Kate Ilsley, Nicole Gleeson and Alyssa Andrews – were recognized before the contest.

“I am so proud of this group for securing back-to-back league titles for the first time in Vintage High girls basketball history,” Donohoe added. “We have continued to grind it out this season. We’ve had several close games and these girls continually figure out a way to win. We made a team goal in June to do everything we could to win league. The smiles on their faces holding that banner in postgame is a memory I’ll cherish forever.”

Against fourth-place Justin-Siena (13-13, 5-7 VVAL), Vintage jumped out to a 9-0 lead but led just 12-7 after the first quarter and 25-23 at halftime after the Braves used good 3-point shooting and transition baskets to get back in the game. The lead changed several times in the third and they went into the fourth tied 36-36. But the Crushers got crucial steals and offensive rebounds down the stretch to prevail.

Andrews had a game-high 21 points, six rebounds and two steals to lead the hosts.

Kate Ilsley had 12 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and four steals, Mo Groves eight points and nine rebounds, Maya Sapienza five points, four rebounds and four steals, Nicole Gleeson two points, four rebounds and four steals, and Ellie Savage one point.

“I felt that our late-game rebounding, along with a 19-9 advantage on points off of turnovers, made the difference for us,” Donohoe said.

Leading Justin-Siena were Ashlee Whittemore (18 points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals), Isabella Wright (15 points, 13 rebounds), Sarah Reynolds (six points, two rebounds), Karlie Wells (five points, two rebounds, two blocks), Grace Walter (two points, two assists), Kiran Monteverdi (three assists, two rebounds), Ella Thatcher (three rebounds) and Lexi Rosenbrand (three rebounds).

The Braves fell 50-40 to second-place Casa Grande in their own Senior Night game on Jan. 31. They led 25-20 at halftime, but in the third played what head coach Andy Bettencourt said was one of their worst quarters of the season. Turnovers and defensive lapses led to a 23-2 Casa Grande explosion and an insurmountable lead.

Leading Justin-Siena in that game were Whittemore (25 points, seven rebounds), Monteverdi (three points, three assists, three steals, two rebounds), Thatcher (three points, two rebounds), Rosenbrand (three points, two rebounds), Wells (two points, seven rebounds), Wright (two points, four rebounds) and Mikhaela Cepeda (two points).

“Two tough losses for sure, as we felt like we had a great chance in both games,” Bettencourt added. “In the Casa game, we just came out flat in the third quarter, which was unfortunate because in the other three quarters we played really well and had control of the game. In terms of the Vintage game, just a great high school basketball game that came down to them making a few more plays than we did at the end. We know the rematch is going to be a tough challenge and we look forward to another opportunity to compete.”

Justin-Siena was to visit Vintage in the first round of the four-team VVAL Tournament on Wednesday night, with the winner playing the Napa-Casa Grande winner at 5:30 p.m. Friday at American Canyon.

Fort Bragg 64, St. Helena 42

The Saints were unable to squeak out their first league win of the season for Senior Night on Tuesday, succumbing to the Wolverines despite scoring the most points in a North Central League I game this season.

Seniors Jovana Rodriguez, Andrea Hernandez, Citlali Garcia, Lisa Lord and Elizabeth Garcia were all honored in a brief pregame ceremony. Rodriguez scored a team-high 14 points while Hernandez added 11 and Citlali Garcia had eight to pace the Saints, who held an early lead but fell behind by double-digits by halftime.

Even in the face of such a deficit, the Saints played hard till the end, which interim coach Dave Pauls recognized and applauded.

“It doesn’t matter if we’re down by 20 or 40 or whatever, it doesn’t change the way they play,” Pauls said. “So, I knew that they were going to bring their best effort tonight and they did. They made Fort Bragg work for their win.”

The Saints are now 4-20 on the season and 0-13 in league play. They wrap up their season on Thursday at Cloverdale.

Varsity Boys Soccer

Vintage 7, Justin-Siena 0

The Crushers finished undefeated in their first Vine Valley Athletic League campaign with their third straight shutout, sixth in 12 league games, Tuesday night down the road at Dodd Stadium.

Anthony Enriquez had a part in all three first-half goals for Vintage (18-1-2, 11-0-1 VVAL), assisting Angelo Vivan on the first one and scoring the next two on assists from Jesus Manzo and Christian Ceja.

Enriquez has been one of the team’s hottest players, with four goals in the last three games.

“He’s found his rhythm and groove pretty much these last few games and come off the bench and been very productive for us up top,” co-coach Javier Covarrubias said of the junior. “We like giving him the last 10-15 minutes of each half to come in to the game and make something happen. He’s taken advantage of those minutes and opportunities and basically become our super sub in the attack.”

In the second half, Gerardo Perez assisted on goals by Cole Geschwender and Oscar Loyola, Jorge Galvan assisted another goal by Loyola, and Jesus Manzo closed the scoring with an assist from Luis Mendoza.

The Crushers will open the CIF North Coast Section playoffs next Wednesday, Feb. 13.

Varsity Boys Basketball

Fort Bragg 56, St. Helena 51

The St. Helena boys varsity team suffered a 56-51 loss on the road at Fort Bragg on Tuesday, setting up a crucial regular-season finale on Thursday with Cloverdale if the Saints are to make it to the North Coast Section Div. 5 playoffs.

The loss drops the Saints to 12-12 on the season and 7-6 in the North Central League I. Before Tuesday, MaxPreps had the Saints ranked as the No. 14 team in the Section. While other officially rankings may vary slightly, the fact still remains that the top 16 teams qualify for playoffs.

On Tuesday, the Saints trailed by nine at the half but battled back and held the lead at several points in the fourth quarter. But a key offensive rebound from Fort Bragg on missed free throws helped the Wolverines to ice the game down the stretch.

If the Saints beat Cloverdale on Thursday it would greatly help their chances at ensuring they secure a playoff spot. A loss wouldn’t necessarily eliminate them either, but their fate would be much more of a toss-up.

To add another layer of drama, Thursday is Senior Night for the Saints. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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