Having bested Gridley twice already this season, the Willows High girls basketball team was unable to make it three in a row as the visiting Bulldogs upset the Honkers 58-54 in the second round of the Division CIF State Girls Basketball Tournament on Feb. 28.
From the start, this was a different contest than the previous two as Gridley, the No. 10 seed, employing a new defensive scheme, jumped out to an early lead, which it would ultimately maintain until the final buzzer.
Despite open looks, No. 2 Willows struggled with their shooting, yet found themselves down by a slim 32-26 margin at intermission, thanks in large part to junior Meghan Weinrich who accounted for 17 of the Honkers’ first-half points.
Unfortunately, for Willows however, it was more of the same in the third quarter as Gridley sustained its six point advantage behind the efforts of the Tull sisters, Maddyson and Kennedy, who did it all for the Bulldogs at both ends of the court.
As the fourth quarter opened, the Honkers quickly found themselves down 10 points when once again, Weinrich reasserted herself, cutting the lead to three after draining a shot from beyond the arc at the two-minute mark.
Still, the Bulldogs were able to maintain the differential via the free throw line where they made good on eight of 11 attempts and broke the Honkers’ back after a rebound and put back with just 26 seconds remaining in the game.
Weinrich put forth a herculean effort pouring in a game high 39 points, but it wasn’t enough to offset the damage done by the Tulls, who combined for 44 of the Bulldog’s points.
On a night, where the Honkers shot 35 percent from the floor as a team, only two others, seniors Marissa Peters and Claire Maghan, were able to break into the scoring column as they chipped in with eight and seven points respectively.
Willows (22-7), the Sacramento Valley League champion for the second straight year will look to continue their dominance next season behind Weinrich, Tayler Berens and Hanna Parisio who return for their senior season.