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Lady Bruins Claim Lions Tournament Title
After a pair of dramatic finishes landed Riverbank High's varsity girls basketball team wins in each of their first two contests, a 14-point win in their third offered a much-needed sigh of relief.

The Lady Bruins squeezed by Turlock Christian and Ripon Christian in the first two rounds of the 35th Annual Lions Club Girls Invitational at Escalon, then rallied past Central Catholic with a 31-17 mid-game rally to take the tournament title on Friday.

According to Bruin coach Tim Carnes, it was Riverbank's first Lions Club title since the early 1980s.

"I believe we are far away from being good, but it is starting to click and the girls are starting to click and gel together," Carnes said. "There are no personal conflicts on this team, which is cool."

The Lady Bruins were tested earlier after landing a difficult round one match-up with Turlock Christian. The Eagles were unbeaten Southern League champions a season ago and made the Division V California Interscholastic Federation State playoffs after two one-sided wins to start their postseason.

The Eagles returned six-foot, two-inch senior captain Marly Burton (2010-11 leading rebounder) to the varsity lineup, but Burton was held to two points and just three offensive rebounds against Riverbank.

Her limited production was a credit to the terrific defensive play of Bruin sophomore Janelle Luu, who scored 11 points in the game and battled Burton in the post throughout the contest.

"Janelle is amazing," Carnes said. "She is a (five foot, 11 inch) sophomore who guarded a 6-2 senior and was out-gunned by 80 or 90 pounds. Janelle had only two fouls and played nearly flawless."

Riverbank struggled to execute a zone defense during a 17-8 first quarter deficit, but bounced back to lead after three quarters. The Bruins pulled away after a good fourth quarter start and sealed the win with 39 seconds to play when Vanessa Vargas drained back-to-back free throws for a 37-30 win.

Vargas had six points in the win while Olivia Luu (12 points), Tori Sandoval (four), Kendra Garcia (four) and Tiffany Edgar (two) also found the net.

The Bruins nearly missed a chance to play for the tournament title during a semifinal contest with Ripon Christian (12-2 SL in 2010-11), but Janelle Luu sunk a basket with two-seconds to play to cap a 41-38 victory.

Riverbank led 13-2 after a quarter and won the fourth-quarter tally 16-14, but gave the Knights a combined six-point advantage during the second and third quarters.

Olivia Luu landed 22 points while Janelle Luu (seven), Vargas (five), Angel Harrell (five) and Garcia (two) also scored.

Vargas erupted for 18 points against Central Catholic in the tourney finals and saw Janelle Luu (15), Olivia Luu (14), Harrell (six), Sandoval (three) and Garcia (two) all find the net.

The Luu sisters were also honored for their efforts, with Olivia selected as the tournament MVP and Janelle named to the All-Tournament Team.