After defeating sixth-seeded Warsaw Jan. 27 in the first round of the Russellville Tournament, the top-seeded Lady Pintos faced fourth-seeded Belle Jan. 28 in the second round, where California came from behind at the half to pull off a 40-35 win.
After an even 7-7 first quarter, Belle outscored California 15-11 in the second quarter to lead 22-18 at the half. The Lady Pintos changed the pace in the second half by scoring the first 10 points in the third quarter and ultimately outscored the Lady Tigers 13-6, and 9-7 in the fourth to pocket the win.
"It seemed like we couldn't buy a bucket," California Coach Bobby Sangster said. "But we found a way to come out on top."
Meleigha Caudel led California with 15 points. Ashtyn Goans and Kamryn Koetting scored eight each and Mara Caudel added six.
Belle was led by Lacey Clark, who was 16-20 at the free-throw line, with 25 points. Kaylee Kinsey added eight.
The win moved the Lady Pintos, who were playing without senior Sydney Deeken and junior Kelsey Roush due to injuries, to the championship game against third-seeded Father Tolton Thursday night, where California lost a hard-fought battle to the Lady Trail Blazers, 49-44.
"We had some things go our way, but ended up on the losing side," Sangster said. "You know we've got Sydney and Kelsey out, and now Kayla Allison (who was injured in the fourth quarter of the Father Tolton game). We're hoping to get a clean bill of health in the near future, but for now we're taking things day by day."
Father Tolton led 14-6 after the first quarter and 23-12 at the half, however, the Lady Pintos came out in the third quarter to outscore the Lady Trail Blazers 16-5 to trail by just one point going into the final frame, 29-28. California got within three points of Father Tolton in the fourth quarter, 43-40, when Mara Caudel hit three crucial free throws with 54 seconds remaining, however, Lindsey Wright kept the Lady Trail Blazers on top as she scored six final points to push Father Tolton on to clench the championship, 49-44.
California (12-7) was led by Koetting with 11 points. Meleigha Caudel and Mara Caudel each had 10 points.
Father Tolton (11-4) was led by Lindsey Wright with 14 points. Hope Wright followed with 13 and Lacy Stephen added nine.
In other action at the tourney Thursday, second-seeded Russellville defeated fifth-seeded Versailles 41-40 to take third place, and fourth-seeded Belle defeated sixth-seeded Warsaw 66-52 to win the consolation.
Named to the All-Tournament Team were California's Meleigha Caudel, Koetting and Caitlin Meyer; Russellville's A.J. Grellner and Hannah Matthews; Father Tolton's Hope Wright and River Remis; Belle's Lacey Clark; and Versailles' Bailey Croy and Duanna Frerking.
The Lady Pintos will be back in action Thursday, Feb. 6, hosting Eldon.
"We've got five games left in the regular season," Sangster added. "I'm feeling very uneasy at this point. We're getting so close to the end that it's no longer about when we get healthy, like I've been saying since earlier in the season, it's if we get healthy. These girls deserve better than this."
The freshman game will begin at 5 p.m. with the JV and varsity games to follow, respectively.