At the buzzer, arms were thrust into the air, players embraced each other, and friends and family came down from the stands for long, excited hugs.
Salesian-Richmond’s girls basketball team had pulled out a 53-44 win over Pinewood on Saturday in the California Interscholastic Federation Division 1 regional semifinals at Albany High School.
It was a sweet feeling for the top-seeded Pride (28-4), which had lost to the Panthers last year in the CIF Open Division Northern Regional final.
Via Fonongaloa scored 18 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, to help Salesian pull out the win.
“I was hyped,” Fonongaloa said. “Pinewood took our season last year. I was not going to let that happen again.”
The Panthers jumped out early to a 9-2 lead and held the advantage for most of the first half. Una Jovanovic scored eight points in the first half on 3-of-5 shooting from the floor. She finished with 13 points before fouling out late.
“It all starts with great defense,” Salesian coach Stephen Pezzola said. “Pinewood’s an amazing shooting team. I thought that we had a little bit of a break early in the game. I just thought we locked it up.”
Salesian will face Bishop O’Dowd-Oakland on Tuesday in the NorCal title game with the winner advancing to the state final March 13-14 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. Pinewood, which got 15 points from Annika Decker, finished the season at 25-5.
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