At some point, the “we’re going to use this loss as fuel for next year” moment was going to hit the North Salinas High girls basketball team.
That moment arrived Wednesday night in the first round of the Division I Northern California regional tournament. North Salinas’ season came to an end at the hands of Santa Rosa, 67-44.
There will be no more games this season for the more than dozen Lady Vikings, none which are seniors.
And in a season filled with plenty of highs, North Salinas had to endure one final low, a loss by a team that traveled three hours away with hopes of ending North Salinas’ season.
North Salinas, which came into the game with the best winning percentage among the 14 Division I teams, suffered its third loss this season and first one since Dec. 27.
Santa Rosa played in its 32nd game this season but the first in nearly a week. And the Panthers showed few issues in the seven-day layoff.
When the second half began, the Panthers took off.
After trading baskets, Santa Rosa stormed to a 15-0 run, getting contributions in several different forms.
Six-foot-four Devin Murray clogged the inside and put up seven points in the run, four from passes by Kylie Oden. And when Oden wasn’t passing, she was scoring. She buried two three-pointers in the run. Morgan Bertsch hit a bank shot.
A 28-28 tie became 43-28 with 4:22 to go in the third quarter, and the crowd was stunned.
“We had to get our transition game going and get open,” said Santa Rosa coach Steve Chisholm. “We had some trouble making shots in the first half, but North Salinas played tremendous.”
Santa Rosa scored 28 points in the third quarter, surpassing all it did in the first half.
Murray finished with 23 points, Bertsch had 20 points, and Oden had 15 points.
The Panthers tried to gain some footing in the first half against North Salinas, but the Vikings matched everything Santa Rosa did.
North Salinas had contributions from all five starters in the first half, including Nicole Hermosillo-Wright, who scored nine points in the first 16 minutes. In that same time frame, Jordyn Enos had five points, and Adea Prime and Alyssa Springs each put in four points.
The Vikings trailed for only a couple of minutes in the first half. After a Santa Rosa miss, Springs grabbed a rebound and went coast to coast for a layup, giving North Salinas a 13-12 lead with 35 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
A 9-2 run lifted the Vikings to a 22-17 advantage with 5:04 to go in the second quarter. Hermosillo-Wright was the catalyst, scoring five points in the run.
She gave the Vikings the lead at the break, when she was fouled while trying to make a three-pointer with 18 seconds to go. She made two of the three free throws, boosting the Vikings ahead 27-26.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, the success they had in the first half couldn’t be duplicated.
An 11-0 run by Santa Rosa to open the fourth quarter sealed the Vikings’ fate.
Despite the loss, North Salinas coach Darren Jackson said he was proud of his team for how they played Wednesday and through the CCS championship season.
“We’ll grow a little bit over the summer, and we’ll come back and do it again,” Jackson said.
Hermosillo-Wright finished with a team-best 11 points. Springs had 10 points, and Urzua had nine points.
Santa Rosa’s next opponent is a familiar one. It will head to Antioch to play Deer Valley, the NCS champion, on Saturday. The two teams met earlier this season, with Santa Rosa winning by three.
The Vikings hoped to be Deer Valley’s opponent, but that won’t be the case.
And the future looks bright for a team that had no seniors and could possibly bring everyone back next season.
“Next year, we know what we have to do to go farther,” Springs said. “We’ll see each other during the summer, and we’ll get stronger.”
North Salinas finished the season 25-3.