Sierra women advance in playoffs

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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This season has lasted so long for the Sierra College women’s basketball team that two players look far different these days than they did when the squad convened Oct. 1 for its first practice. Sophomore Kristen Huffman’s hair has turned from blonde to brown. Freshman Victoria Turner’s braids are much longer, although she admitted to receiving a little help in the hair department. Some of her locks are imported. Huffman and Turner had little time to compare their hairdos during practice Tuesday. The Wolverines spent two hours preparing for Friday night’s state playoff opener against Merced in Rocklin. Eight-seeded Sierra (18-11) pulled away in the second half for a 75-59 victory over No. 9 Merced (20-9). Sophomore Forward Tori Carroll led the Wolverines with 28 points. Carroll is in no hurry to bid farewell to her teammates. She is milking this season for all it’s worth. The Casa Roble High School product stayed after practice Tuesday to take a few more shots. “Every player practices for two hours,” Carroll said. “If you don’t put in more time, you’re not going to be on top.” All that extra work paid off for Carroll when she was the only Sierra player named to the All-Big 8 Conference team. Brandie Murrish’s Wolverines finished third in the Big 8 with an 8-4 record. Murrish did not take it easy on her players as they prepared for Friday’s game. On a scale of 1 to 10, Carroll rated Tuesday’s practice as an 8. Wednesday’s promised to be even more grueling. Carroll did not venture a guess on how many times she will hear Murrish say, “Your sense of urgency is lacking.” Murrish is not fine-tuning her team for the playoffs. She is going back to basics. “We need to clean up our bad habits because you don’t get a chance to do that during the regular season,” she said. “There’s not enough time. The regular season is a grind. We need to refocus.” Carroll is one of four sophomore starters, so Murrish does not need to remind them of what is at stake in the postseasons. Every practice and game from here on out could be their last. Although her days at Sierra are numbered, Carroll wants her final season to last as long as possible. “It probably won’t hit me until it’s over,” she said. “It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to the girls and coaches. The coaches have invested a lot of time into my development.” It would be safe to say Carroll has repaid them.