STOCKTON — Rosemont stifled Weston Ranch’s guards early and fully controlled the tempo in Tuesday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division III opener.
The upset-minded Wolverines from Sacramento, however, had no answer for Victoria Gulley in the post. The 5-foot-11 senior racked up 20 points and 17 rebounds — both season-highs — and her dominant play eventually opened things up for her teammates in a 58-42 victory for fifth-seeded Weston Ranch, which tied a program record for most wins in single season.
“Victoria, the unselfish player that she is, came through huge tonight,” Weston Ranch coach Chris Bauer said.
Elisabeth Alexander added 17 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and four steals but was a non-factor in the first half. The CSU Stanislaus-bound guard got into a rhythm in the third quarter when she did most of her damage, scoring 12 points including two long-range 3s.
Patricia King (eight points, five assists, five steals) struggled with an off shooting night and foul trouble but made up for it with energy and hustle.
Weston Ranch was fortunate to be down four, 26-22, at halftime. Gulley accounted for Weston Ranch’s first seven points of the game and had 14 to go with 10 rebounds by halftime.
No. 12 Rosemont (18-10) handcuffed Alexander and King on the defensive end while its best player, junior point guard Irene Colaivalu (22 points, nine rebounds, four assists, seven steals, six rebounds), had her way with the Cougars (21-6).
Rosemont coach Stuart Welch said he wasn’t comfortable with the halftime lead and it didn’t take Weston Ranch long to show why. Alexander buried her first 3-pointer 16 seconds into the half and at one point made three straight buckets to cap the Cougars’ decisive 13-2 run.
“They came out and gained some momentum and really got going,” Welch said. “That’s what we did not want to happen. They’re a tremendous team, we knew that. If we gave them a crack they were going to take advantage of it. In the second half we just ended up playing their game instead of our game.”
Nia Williams hit a 3 and Colaivalu converted a conventional 3-point play to keep the Wolverines within range. Weston Ranch was ahead 42-34 heading into the fourth and pulled away with a 12-3 spurt. Rosemont’s chances took a big hit when Williams (nine points) fouled out with 4:54 remaining.
“It kind of snowballed and we kept pushing from there,” said Bauer, adding that a switch to a box-and-1 defense also helped spark the team in the second half. “We were able to execute in the second half and played the way we were supposed to in the first half.”
Weston Ranch can make history Thursday in its quarterfinal rematch with No. 4 Patterson (25-3), which eliminated the Cougars in the same round a year ago. A victory Thursday would be a program record 22nd and would mark the first-ever semifinal berth. All semifinalists also qualify for the CIF Northern California Regional Championships, a tournament the Weston Ranch girls squad has yet to compete in.