Though the path to get there was a bit rockier than it initially appeared it would be, the East girls basketball team still found its way to Fresno this weekend.
East didn't allow a field goal and forced 12 turnovers in the first quarter, then withstood a late Coalinga rally to clinch a spot in the Division 5 Central Section championship game with a 49-39 win on its home floor Wednesday night.
They'll take the Selland Arena court at 10 a.m. Friday for the chance to take home the title.
"I'm just so excited," said a teary-eyed Alaisha Landeros, who had five points, four rebounds, three steals and three blocks in the first quarter. "In the three years I've played here we were never able to make it this far. I'm happy because it's my last year and we're still playing."
The dominance extended into the third quarter, where the Blades appeared to be in cruise control, holding a 32-12 lead.
A Horned Toad offense that had been virtually non-existent to that point finally got in a rhythm, closing the quarter on an 11-1 run. The rally continued when Aaliyah James scored on consecutive possessions to open the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit down to 33-27.
But as they have for much of the season, seniors Landeros and Kanyah Patterson led the charge that helped East secure the win.
Landeros made a great move inside to score on a layup. Then, on the next possession, Patterson led a fastbreak and found a cutting Samantha Garcia for a transition layup, pushing the lead back to double-digits at 37-27.
Both players finished with double-doubles. Patterson had 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Landeros added 11 and 10.
The Blades forced 27 turnovers but kept Coalinga alive thanks largely to the fact they committed 23 of their own. But even if they didn't record many style points, the Blades expressed elation to keep their season going.
"I'm just happy," Patterson said. "Waking up at 4 o'clock every morning paid off. There's no doubt in my mind me and my team can pull this out."