For the first time in 31 seasons, College of the Sequoias reached the Final Four of the California Community College Athletic Association women's basketball championships.
But unlike the 1990 season, the Giants won't be playing in the final.
Christina Oliva, a third-team All-State selection, made sure of that.
Oliva scored 11 points during a crucial second quarter run -- including three straight 3-pointers -- to propel Northern California No. 2-seeded Sierra to a 67-53 victory over NorCal No. 4 Sequoias on March 12 in the state semifinals.
The Wolverines, ranked second overall in the state, advance to face NorCal No. 1 seeded and state top-ranked San Joaquin Delta on March 13 in a clash of Big 8 Conference rivals for the state title. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. from West Hills-Lemoore College's Golden Eagle Arena.
"We knew she was a good player," Giants coach Ray Alvarado said of Oliva, who finished with a game-leading 23 points. "We kind of got lost on her and she caught fire. She's hard to guard. If we could have contained her, it would have been a lot closer in the first half."
Sequoias (24-6) led by as many as seven points in the first quarter, and held a 23-17 edge with 8:02 remaining in the second quarter when Sapphire Jones (Hanford High) scored a layup off an assist from Celeste Lewis (Sierra Pacific-Hanford).
But Oliva sank a jumper, then buried three straight 3-pointers to key a 15-2 run that put Sierra ahead 30-23.
The Wolverines (27-3) would not trail the rest of the way
The Giants got as close as three points (38-35) as Jones sank a 2-pointer and a 3-pointer to open the third quarter.
Sierra, however, responded with a 9-2 burst -- including five points from Devon Lewis -- to extend its lead to 10 points at 47-37.
Sequoias never got closer than seven points again.
The Wolverines outscored the Giants 13-5 in the fourth quarter to pull away.
"We just expended too much energy in the second half trying to play catchup," Alvarado said. "Then when we did make a run, we couldn't sustain it."
The Giants were dewalt a tough blow when Lewis, the team's second-leading scorer at 15.2 points per game, suffered a knee injury with 7:09 left in the fourth quarter. She was nor able to return and left the court after the game with assistance from Giants' trainer Lisa Lorenzi.
Jones, the team's leading scorer at 15.9 points per game and a second-team All-State selection, played with a stomach ailment.
"That definitely hurt us," Alvarado said.
Jones led the Giants with 17 points, seven rebounds and a steal. Lewis chipped in 14 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Sequoias also received nine points, four rebounds and two steals from Ayon Carter (Oakland); nine points, eight rebounds, one assist and one steal from Tiana Holland (Washington Union-Easton); two points, nine rebounds and two steals from Hailee Edwards (Ridgeview-Bakersfield); two points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal from Serena Ybarra (Coalinga); a steal from Dyaneli Diaz (McFarland0; a round and a steal by Taylor Roth (Sanger) and two rebounds from Hannah Kearnan).
Sequoias made its first Final Four appearance of Alvarado's 12-year tenure, and for the first time overall since 1990, when it went on to lose to Golden West in the state final.
The Giants won the only state women's basketball title in program history in 1987.
Sequoias reached the Final Four despite losing leading returning rebounder Alana Roberts (Sierra Pacific) to injury, as well as post players Kuda Ceesay (Atlanta) and Ella Thompson (Mammoth), and guard Nikola Hudson (Florida) to grades or defecion.
"(Reaching the Final Four) was an amazing accomplishment when you think about it," Alvarado said. "We lost our four man a long time ago and some of the other players had to step up in the role. They all grew a lot and found out that by being a collective group, they can go out and do some good things."