ONTARIO -- Erica McCall came off the court crying but clapping. Ridgeview High coaches shared a solemn hug in a hallway in the depths of Citizens Business Bank Arena but emerged with smiles. The Wolf Pack crowd, subdued for most of the day, cheered loudly at the end.
Defeated but proud, Ridgeview's girls basketball team had that kind of a bittersweet day.
Lynwood beat Ridgeview 60-42 on Saturday morning in the CIF Division II Southern California Championship in a game that was decided in the first half. Still, the Wolf Pack (29-4) ends its season as the first girls basketball team from Bakersfield to reach a regional final.
"Being at Ridgeview has been four great years, and I'm proud of my teammates," said McCall, the Gatorade State Player of the Year who played her final high school game. "We have nothing to hang our heads about."
McCall, a McDonald's All-American finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks, and extended her state-record blocks totals to 278 for a single season and 950 for a career, according to the CalHiSports record book. She'll play for Stanford next season.
But after beating Riverside-J.W. North -- a team that played Lynwood close in the Southern Section final -- handily on Tuesday, Ridgeview never really gave itself a chance in this one, shooting just 27 percent (15-of-56), committing 22 turnovers and falling behind 36-14 at halftime. But in the end, the Wolf Pack was OK with that.
"No one thought we would make it this far," senior guard Alex Green said. "No one thought we would be playing here today. We proved we could play with anyone and that we’re one of the best teams in the state.”
Ridgeview had defeated Lynwood (28-5) in an early-season meeting in Fresno, 43-41. In that game, the Knights jumped to a 13-1 lead before Ridgeview came back — this time, Lynwood engineered another hot start and never ceded control.
“I think we overlooked Ridgeview the first time,” said Lynwood coach Ellis Barfield, whose team also played Ridgeview in preseason exhibition games. “We had played them in the fall a couple of times and done well, and I don’t think we focused on the task at hand. This time, we prepared ourselves better mentally.”
With Ridgeview turning the ball over four times and missing shots when it got one off, Lynwood jumped to leads of 10-2 and 15-4. McCall’s putback before the first-quarter buzzer cut the lead to 15-7, but the Knights then scored 21 of the first 26 points in the second quarter to take complete control.
“We started to rush; I think we had some jitters,” Green said. “Then nothing would fall for us, and we started to rush more.”
Lynwood’s defense certainly deserves plenty of credit, too — the Knights made 10 steals in the first half (14 for the game) and tipped numerous other Ridgeview passes.
“For us, defense leads to offense,” Barfield said. “We’re a defensive-minded team; I’m a defensive-minded coach. From our best shooter to our worst shooter, one thing you can always give us is defense. Get out there, create some havoc, get on the floor and fight for the ball.”
Ridgeview outscored Lynwood 28-24 in the second half after coach Michael Martin said he told his team to have more fun in the second half.
“We just kept trying to chip away,” McCall said. “We showed that we can take over the game for a little while, too.”
Alize Lofton, who has signed with Cal State Bakersfield to play for McCall’s father, Greg, scored 16 points to lead Lynwood. Amber Blockmon and Priscilla Lopez each added 15 for the Knights. After McCall’s 19, Ridgeview’s leading scorer was Candace Wilkerson, who had 13 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. The rest of the team combined for 10 points and 11 turnovers.
“Right away, (Lynwood) just came out and played hard,” Martin said. “They made tough shots and kept the run going, and we were down big before we were even into the game.”
Lynwood, a program that has won three state titles, will play Mountain View-St. Francis on Saturday in the Division II state championship game. Ridgeview will have to be content with a historic run — in girls basketball, Rosamond (1989) and Wasco (1990) are the only teams to reach a state championship game.
“I want to congratulate my team,” Martin said. “We did a lot of things no other team in Bakersfield has done. I don’t mind our run ending. These girls made basketball fun in Bakersfield.”