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story.lead_photo.caption Democrat photo/Kevin LabotkaKaLynn Irey scores Jan. 16 during the Pintos’ 71-38 win against Marshall in the championship match of the California girls basketball tournament. Irey went on to be named a tournament co-MVP.

The California girls basketball team (7-4) won the Pintos’ home tournament Jan. 16 after defeating the Marshall Owls 71-38.

This is the second year in a row the team has won the California tournament.

Pintos head coach Bobby Sangster said winning the school’s own tournament is a great feeling.

“It is a great experience for these young ladies,” Sangster said. “It is something we are really proud of. It is one of our goals that we set out for every year to accomplish, no matter who is involved, and this year, we were just grateful to have it and we are grateful to come out as champions.”

The Pintos won Jan. 11 against Fulton 69-37 in the first game of the tournament and went on to beat Rock Bridge’s junior varsity team 69-48 on Jan. 13 en route to the championship match.

Against Marshall, the Pintos jumped out to an early 9-2 lead with more than 3:00 to go in the first quarter. Marshall responded by going on a 5-o run to make it a 9-7 game by the end of the quarter.

Marshall cut the Pintos’ lead down to one point at 9-8 early in the second quarter, but the Pintos made it a three-point game after a basket by Lauren Hill made it 11-8. Tristan Porter followed that up with a three-pointer to make it a 14-8 game with less than 7:00 to go before halftime. The game stayed closed, with the score at 19-16 with around 4:30 left in the quarter, when the Pintos started to get hot on offense. It started with a three-pointer by Lilli Eichelberger that made it a 22-17 game and later, with the score 26-17, the lead went into double digits after a three-pointer by Porter made it 29-17 with less than 3:00 left to go. The Pintos kept it up; with around a minute to go in the half, the Pintos had widened the gap to 20 points at 39-19.

The Pintos entered halftime up 40-20 after outscoring Marshall 31-13 in the second quarter.

Sangster said going on a run like that before halftime actually leads to a challenging halftime break.

“It makes for a challenging halftime because you want to keep going,” Sangster said. “You want to keep playing — 18-4 run to end the second quarter and Marshall had a long week. They played Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night, and then they had a snow day on Friday so it had been a challenging week for Marshall. We felt that if we could withstand their first initial punch than we felt like we could get out and run them a bit, and we were able to do that. The girls did a great job of taking advantage and executing and making the right plays.”

The Pintos lead grew even wider in the second half. In the third quarter, California led by 23 points after a three-pointer by Porter made it a 48-25 game with less than 5:00 left in the quarter. The Pintos went on a 6-2 run to close out the quarter and make it a 54-27 game.

In the fourth quarter, the Pintos extended their lead to 30 points as they made it a 61-31 game. A three-pointer by Lauren Friedrich made it a 64-31 game with just more than 4:00 left in the game.

The Pintos continued to play tough defense despite the heavy lead, as they gave up only seven more points with the win firmly in hand.

A key to the team’s success on offense is how they are sharing the ball, as Sangster said the team has been spreading it around well.

“We have been sharing the basketball really well — 69 points in the first round, 69 points in the second round and 71 points today. The girls are stepping up and hitting shots when they need to and we are making the next correct basketball play,” Sangster said. “When that happens, you are able to be efficient and we are guarding on the defensive end and turning into our offense, so good things are happening.”

A successful championship run earned multiple Pintos honors for their performances. Tristan Porter and KaLynn Irey were named as the tournament’s co-MVPs, and Lauren Hill and Lauren Friedrich were named to the all-tournament team.

Porter led in the Pintos’ championship win with 22 points, followed by Lauren Hill with 15 points, Irey with 11 points and Lauren Friedrich with nine points.

The Pintos’ next game is at 6 p.m. Jan. 21 at Skyline.

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