CITY COLLEGE — Down 72-67 with five minutes left in regulation, the City College of San Francisco women’s basketball team was in a precarious position against Fresno City College.
City College had led for the majority of the game, but by the fourth quarter, Fresno had pushed ahead. Enter: Vivian Woo.
“She is so clutch and her teammates trusted her and found her the ball. She took big shots, which she has been doing all season,” City College head coach Derek Lau said. “She had to step up and she stepped up big time.”
The freshman guard stepped up and scored 12 of the Rams’ final 19 points over the course of a three-minute stretch to turn the tide, helping City College to win the first-round state playoff game 86-74, and keep the Rams’ championships hopes alive.
“Her teammates did a great job of trusting her,” Lau said. “They know she is a three point threat and they kept feeding her the ball no matter what happened to her. In the huddle they kept saying, ‘Keep shooting, keep shooting, it is going to go in.’ She kept firing and finally broke through.”
Woo started out her barrage with a three, then banked a two-point field goal off the glass to tie the score at 72-72. Then, she hit her biggest shot of the night.
Woo got the ball in the right corner and, while taking a three, was fouled hard. Not only did she manage to sink the bucket, but she completed the four-point play to give the Rams a 76-72 lead. Woo then hit a third three from the top of the arc to give her team a nine point lead at 81-72.
“My first half was rocky, I wasn’t making my shots, but my teammates told me to keep shooting, you are a shooter, we gotta do this,” Woo said. “They kept me in this, didn’t let me get down on myself and I did it when they needed me. My shots were what they needed, came at the right time.”
City College struggled with spacing for most of the game. Fresno City played with five guards on the the court, and was able to run a quick offense that kicked the ball out for threes. On defense, Fresno ran a full-court press from the start of the game, which tripped up the Rams for most of the first half.
The press forced the Rams’ ball handlers towards the sideline, and once they were there, Fresno City pounced, forcing 14 turnovers. Despite the tough defense, the Rams led the game 20-13 at the end of the first quarter.
City College did a better job in the second quarter of attacking the full court press thanks to the play of sophomore guard Anissah Dorsey. Although the shortest player on the court, Dorsey used her quickness and handle to force her way through and then find teammates open for baskets after the second line of Fresno City defenders picked up on her.
Despite not hitting any threes during the first half, the Rams still led at halftime 36-32. City College had the advantage in the post, but Fresno City’s 3-point shooting kept them close.
Fresno City kept hitting big threes during the third quarter to take the lead, with the Rams defense collapsing too hard on the ball handler and leaving shooters wide open for kick-outs.
City College struggled on offense too until Dorsey stepped up again. Dorsey started by hitting an open mid-range jumper that cut the Fresno City lead to 49-46. A minute later, Dorsey was left wide open and drilled a three.
“They were giving everyone space, but they gave me extra space,” Dorsey said. “I had to let them know you can’t disrespect me.”
Dorsey, who scored 14 points, would hit a final three during the quarter’s final seconds to cut the deficit to 61-58 and give her team some much needed momentum with one quarter left.
“I had to get my team started,” said Dorsey, who added six assists and went 6-of-10 from the field and 2-of-4 from three. “We didn’t want to go home.”
“Anissah been playing big for us the last couple years and today was one of her biggest games, she seems to play big in playoff games,” Lau said. “I don’t think she wanted her sophomore season to be over just yet so she decided to take it upon her shoulders.”
The Rams started the fourth quarter slow. Fresno City’s star, Jerene Richardson tortured the Rams. A polished and smooth guard with long length, a nice shot, and excellent ball handles, Richardson was able to score 18 points for Fresno, and her offense helped her team lead for most of the fourth quarter until Woo — who added eight rebounds and six assists to her 6-of-12 shooting night — stepped up for the Rams.
Woo’s 12 point offensive outburst — she scored 16 on the night — put City College ahead for good.
Star freshman Errayana Hatfield led the team with 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting, and scored eight of them in the fourth quarter, joining Woo in having a clutch performance when it mattered most for her team. Hatfield also added 12 rebounds, including four on the offensive glass.
Since Fresno ran five guards, City College was able to flip that against them by finding Hatfield down low for baskets.
“During the second half we started to hit the gameplan and we were able to dominate down low,” Lau said. “That was key for us for making the comeback.”
City College will play its next playoff game on Saturday, March 9 versus the winner of Solano Community College and College of the Sequoias. If No. 4-seed College of the Sequoias wins, the No. 5-seed Rams will have to travel.
City College will have off for the rest of the weekend and then begin practice on Monday to prepare for their upcoming playoff game.
“We are going to be in hustle territory,” Lau said. “We have to keep our focus up so just focusing on what we need to do is big this week.”