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PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL

Black and Wright lead Granite Bay to Tournament Victory

Thanks to the potent scoring ability of Daeja Black, the Grizzlies locked up a 75-64 victory in the Lincoln Invite.
By: Jeremy McDonald - For the Press Tribune
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LINCOLN— In a battle of two well-coached programs, the finals of the 26th annual Lincoln Invitational Tournament on New Years Eve came down to Granite Bay’s veteran wherewithal.

The Fighting Zebras battled hard, but thanks to outstanding performances from senior Annie Wright and junior Daeja Black, the Grizzlies had just enough to capture the Tournament title with a 75-64 victory. Black paced Granite Bay’s offense with 27 points, while Wright and Mika Sakata both added 10.

“I thought the girls finished out really strong, this was a tough team,” said Granite Bay head coach Angel Delgadillo.  “[Lincoln is the] toughest team we’ve faced in this tournament.

“At several points throughout the game, it could’ve gone either way. Lincoln kept making their little runs, but we relied on our leaders. We told them, ‘We need to keep it together.’  We’re getting better about not panicking [late in close games].”

The Grizzlies out-muscled the Fighting Zebras in the opening minutes of Wednesday’s contest controlling the glass in the first quarter en route to a 9-4 lead. The momentum swung in Lincoln’s favor as Kelly Belding hit a pair of treys to tie the game at 11-all.

“When you’re playing someone like Granite Bay, you have to recognize that they love to run and they have great outside shooters,” Lincoln assistant coach Regina Bell admitted.  “So we were trying to defend their outside shooters and tried to press them to make it hard for them to get up and down the court.”

Holding a 22-17 lead at the end of the first period, Black triggered a chain reaction to give Grizzlies a 10-point lead as she registered more than half of her total points in the first 16 minutes.

Granite Bay ended the first stanza on a 15-5 run to take a 42-28 lead at halftime.

“We calmed down and made Lincoln play our game,” said Grizzlies forward Annie Wright. “Once they started making mistakes that really helped us because we were able to control that second quarter and we were able to pull ahead.”

Facing a double-digit deficit, Lincoln rallied in the third thanks to increased intensity on both ends of the court. The Fighting Zebras scored 12 of the first 16 points in the second half as they cut Granite Bay’s lead to five with 2:45 left in the frame.

“I know we were in a huge hole in that first half, but we came back and battled back to within (five) points,” said Zebras guard Kaitlyn McKinney.  “So we know that our will is strong enough to compete with really good teams.  We know we’re good enough, we just have to capitalize on certain things.”

As the fourth quarter hit, Lincoln started to pile up the fouls. The tournament hosts were forced to play conservative in the final ten minutes of the game as the Grizzlies made crucial free throw, after crucial free throw to clinch the win.

Black, who added six rebounds and five steals, and Wright, who tallied a team-high seven rebounds and contributed four steals, each earned All-Tournament recognition after the game. Lincoln’s McKinney and Cassie Pisik joined them as they were recognized for their efforts over the past three days.

“We did a really good job playing together as a team today,” concluded Wright.

Granite Bay will now hit the road to take on Benicia on Friday before hosting Folsom next Friday at 5:30 p.m.

Follow Jeremy McDonald on Twitter: @J_McDonald81