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story.lead_photo.caption Democrat photo/Kevin LabotkaBailey Lage passes the ball to Tristan Porter Jan. 18 during the Pintos’ 51-39 win over Southern Boone in the championship game of the California girls tournament.

The California Pintos girls basketball team finished in first place at the 26th annual California girls basketball tournament. It was the third time the Pintos girls team has won the tournament. The Pintos defeated the Southern Boone Eagles 51-39 Jan. 18 in the championship game. On its path to the trophy, California won against the Battle Spartans (2-10) 68-32 in the first round on Jan. 13 and defeated the Marshall Owls (8-3) 62-42 in the semifinal round. Following the tournament, California is now 12-3 on the year.

Head coach Bobby Sangster said winning the tournament was a gratifying experience.

"For us to be able to come out here and share this experience with these girls, with this group, it shows how much we have grown," Sangster said. "It shows how much we have changed at the beginning of the year, and it shows how far we can go as the season progresses."

It was a defensive game for both teams as there was not much in the way of scoring in the first half. California led Southern Boone 17-12 after the first quarter.

In the second quarter, neither team scored until there was just under six minutes to play in the half, as Paige Lamm got the Pintos on the board first to make it a 19-12 game. The Eagles went on a 7-0 run to tie the game with just under four minutes to go. KaLynn Irey gave the Pintos the lead with a free throw to make it a 20-19 game. With the score 22-21, a three-pointer by the Pintos made it a 25-21 game with around 2:30 to go before halftime. During the final minutes, the Pintos forced a charging foul and a travel to be called on the Eagles — both of these plays got Pintos fans to make some noise. Baskets by Tristan Porter and Irey gave California a 29-21 lead with just over a minute to play. With the score 29-22, the Eagles scored off a turnover on an inbounds pass just before the half ended to make it a 29-24 game.

Southern Boone seemed to be able to cause some problems for the Pintos with the team's pressure. Sangster said California has to take better care of the basketball.

"But we forced a lot of turnovers, too," Sangster said. "I think that was a big part of the ball game. Just two teams competing at the highest levels and battling it out. We were lucky to hit enough shots to come out on top."

Southern Boone was able to get within two points early in the third quarter, with the Pintos leading 29-27 with less than six minutes to go in the quarter. Baskets by Tristan Porter and Makayla Schanzmeyer helped the Pintos extend their lead to 33-27 with 3:44 left in the quarter. California got its lead up to 10 points later in the quarter as with the score at 35-28, a three-pointer by Porter made it 38-28 with 1:17 to go. The Pintos entered the fourth quarter up 41-32.

In the fourth quarter, both teams kept it close as neither team was able to score until Southern Boone made it a 41-34 game with 5:41 to go. Lamm scored the first basket for the Pintos in the quarter, as her bucket made it a 43-34 game with less than five minutes to go. With 4:18 to go in the game, the Pintos led by 11 points with the score 45-34 and again with the score at 47-36 with 2:12 left to play. In the final couple of minutes, California was able to hold Southern Boone to just three points.

Sangster said the game showed the team can win with defense.

"It shows that we can win on more than just our offense," Sangster said. "It shows that we can win with more than just shooting. It shows that we are mentally, emotionally and physically tough."

Tristan Porter was named the tournament Most Valuable Player. Paige Lamm and Lauren Hill were also named to the All-Tournament team for California.

Tristan Porter led California with 19 points in the championship game, followed by Trishelle Porter with nine points and KaLynn Irey with seven points.

The team's next game is at 6 p.m Jan. 23 against Skyline at home.

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