The high school basketball playoffs can turn March into a series of long bus rides and games in unfamiliar venues and towns.
This was not the case for two local teams Tuesday night. The Folsom girls traveled less than nine miles up Highway 50 to face Oak Ridge in a CIF Northern California Regional Division I semifinal.
From the comfort of their home court, the Trojans beat their Sierra Foothill League rivals 43-34 and will face another familiar team on Saturday in Santa Clara to decide the D-I championship.
Second-seeded McClatchy beat Heritage of Brentwood 76-46 behind Jordan Cruz (22 points) and Nia Lowery (15). The Lions, winners of the CIF D-I state title in 2015, beat Oak Ridge 62-54 on Feb. 28 in a Sac-Joaquin Section D-I semifinal in Stockton.
“We were nervous,” said Oak Ridge senior guard Lexi Perry, of facing Folsom again. “We tried to act like we weren’t, but we were.”
Folsom had cause to make any team nervous. Entering as the ninth seed, the road-warrior Bulldogs upset No. 1 Menlo Atherton 57-40 in Saturday’s second round in the South Bay. Folsom also beat Oak Ridge in El Dorado Hills 71-50 on Jan. 27.
“It was two teams that know each other really well,” Oak Ridge coach Steve White said. “You have to give Folsom a lot of credit – they made an incredible run.”
That playoff run, the longest in Folsom’s history, came to an end Tuesday.
White said his team is ready for another rematch, this one against McClatchy, which led Oak Ridge big early in the last meeting before the Trojans made a late run.
“It’s very seldom you get to this level and have a known entity (as an opponent),” White said. “A lot of times you’re traveling to the Bay Area and you’ve got somebody you’ve never seen before.”
Oak Ridge led Folsom 15-3 after the first quarter, but the lead dwindled to 33-30.
“I think we were trying not to lose for a while, so I called timeout,” White said. “I got them in there and said, ‘We’ve got to go out and win this game.’ ”
The Trojans got most of their offensive output from Marie Olson, who led all scorers with 17 points. Jessie Armstrong led Folsom with 12, and McKenzie Forbes scored 11.
Always a contender, Oak Ridge last won the NorCal D-I title in 2010 en route to winning a state championship. Starting with Saturday’s clash against McClatchy, this year’s squad team will look to finish the job again.
“This was our game to get to NorCals, which all of us have pretty much dreamed of as a group since we were kids, because we’ve grown up together,” Perry said. “So this was a huge game, and being against Folsom made it even more intimidating and crazy.”