Living the dream: Ferndale Lady Cats win NCS basketball title; Wildcat boys settle for NCS 2nd place

Mark Lourenzo

Beacon Correspondent

The Ferndale Wildcat girls basketball team must have been tempted to pinch themselves, to make sure it wasn't all a dream, as last Friday evening the Lady Cats pulled off a miraculous overtime win over the St. Bernard's Crusaders to secure the North Coast Section Division 6 championship. It was the second straight section crown for Ferndale coach Kristie Christiansen and the Wildcats. The Ferndale Wildcat boys were not so lucky. After their emotional win over rival St. Bernard's in the semifinal round, the Cats ran into a buzz saw in the form of No. 1 seed, Rincon Valley Christian. The boys had a off night in Santa Rosa and the host Eagles ran off to the North Coast Section title.

On Feb. 27, the No. 1 seeded Ferndale girls played host to the No. 4 Tomales Braves in the semifinal round. The Braves had a size advantage on the Cats, but it was Ferndale that got off to a quick start with an up-tempo approach. Meagan Earley, Kendra Losa and Maci Branstetter fueled a sizzling first period as the Cats scored 22 points to the visitors 10 and Ferndale kept a double-digit lead the rest of the game. Earley finished with a game-high 23 points, canning a dozen in the first quarter alone and 20 points by half-time. Losa was on fire as well, scoring 20 points, including 9 in the 3rd quarter when the Braves keyed on stopping Earley's point production. A very frustrated Tomales team left Ferndale on the short end of a 59-43 score, the Braves felt they were a better team than the score showed, but the game was decided very early by Ferndale's blazing start.

It was on to the championship game for the top seeded Wildcats and their would-be league rival St. Bernard's, a team that lit up the scoreboard in the preliminary rounds of the division bracket. Like an award-winning movie, the game unfolded in dramatic fashion, slowly building up the drama, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats until the gut-wrenching conclusion.

The award for best jump shot in the girls game of basketball goes to Meagan Earley. The Ferndale junior pulled off another scintillating game with her amazing jumper, scoring 24 points to lead all in a low-scoring contest. The award for best clutch play by a reserve goes to, Ferndale's Katrina Senestraro and Nicole Vollmer. Senestraro hit a huge 3-pointer to tie the game with just seconds left in overtime, just when it appeared that the Cats would go down to defeat. Vollmer then followed with an inbound steal and hit the game winning free throw with :0.7 on the clock.

The award for best performance in a supporting role goes to the St. Bernard's Crusaders, coming from behind after scoring just 13 points in the first half to take the lead in the fourth and overtime periods, only to fall victim to fate in the end.

The marquee award for best performance in a real-life-dream-come-true story in a championship game goes to the Ferndale Wildcats girls basketball team. The Cats play team ball as preached by coach Kristie Christiansen. Though it was not the best game played by either the Wildcats or the Crusaders, it was Ferndale who relied on their tough man-to-man team defense and big plays that came from every member of the Lady Cats squad.

It was certainly a hard-earned championship for the Wildcats, as Ferndale's Earley related.

"We wanted to come out strong in the third quarter and put them away," Earley said, as Ferndale held a 9 point lead at half-time, "so it was hard to see them come back, we had to keep our cool." With so much on the line, both teams experienced some big game jitters, but it was the Cats that came up with the big plays in the final moments to earn the 55-54 victory.

"I'm super proud of them," Ferndale head coach Kristie Christiansen said of her squad. "St. Bernard's did a lot to deserve to win that game until the end when we came through." The back-to-back championships bode well for the Lady Cats as they do not have a senior on the roster, so look for them to make another run next season. "I'm up for another year -- this is fun," said an exhausted Meagan Earley as the Wildcats cut down the nets to celebrate winning the title.

The Ferndale Wildcat boys finished off the season playing good basketball. After a slow start the Cats came around midseason and really played well. That was evidenced in Ferndale's 66-51 semifinal win over the St. Bernard's Crusaders last week. The Wildcats came out strong over their league rivals and never let emotions play into the result, flat outplaying the Crusaders from the opening quarter. Ferndale's Justin Lang had perhaps his best game of his senior season as he put down 22 points on the evening. Big man Hunter Van Emmerik was once again huge around the basket with 13 points and many rebounds. Chris Catana provided team leadership and 14 points. Junior Ike Townsend put up 8 points and Wyatt Standley added 7 points. It really was the Wildcats at their best. The Crusaders got hot and hit the 3-point shot late in the game, but that outburst did little to change the outcome.

Unfortunately for Ferndale that momentum did not carry over to the championship game on Rincon Valley Christian's home court March 2. Although Ferndale scored the first points of the game, the Eagles took a modest advantage earned in the opening period and built on it as the game wore on. The Wildcats turned cold in the second quarter and the game got away from there after being outscored once again in the third quarter. The Cats saw their three-year streak of being North Coast Section Division 6 champions come to an end. However, let it be said that three years in a row it was Ferndale who were section title holders and this season they came in second place -- not a bad result for a school the size of Ferndale High.

Photo by Mark Lourenzo/Beacon

The victorious Ferndale Wildcats gather for a group shot after winning the North Coast Section's Division 6 girls basketball championship March 1, doing so in dramatic fashion. The Lady Cats trailed late in the title game against local rival St. Bernard's. Sophomore Katrina Senestraro hit a 3-pointer with seconds left in overtime, then teammate Nicole Vollmer stole the inbound pass getting fouled in the process. Vollmer then hit the game-winning free throw with 0.7 seconds left and Ferndale emerged with the 55-54 win.