ASHLAND, Mo. - California dialed it up a notch.
Ahead by just five points late in the first half, the second-seeded Lady Pintos used a 24-5 run that spanned the second and third quarters to rout sixth-seeded Versailles 60-27 in the Class 3 District 8 semifinals Wednesday night at Southern Boone.
"We did ratchet it up a little bit," California head coach Bobby Sangster said. "... Credit to the girls, they smelled blood and they went after it. That's nothing I can do, teach or coach. That's just my girls getting after it, getting physical and playing good playoff basketball."
California led 13-8 after one quarter and took a 20-11 edge midway through the second period. Versailles responded to get within 20-15.
That's when the Lady Pintos started to turn up the intensity. Meleigha Caudel followed with a steal and layup to make it 22-15 with 35 seconds to go before halftime. Following another Lady Pinto steal, Caudel nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give California a 25-15 halftime advantage.
"How big was that shot right before halftime? Huge momentum swing, pushed it to a 10-point game, Sangster said. "She did a great job tonight of stepping up in a big-time game."
The pressure continued into the second half, where the Lady Pintos forced 15 turnovers. Those takeaways played a big part in opening a 45-19 lead after three quarters.
It was more of the same in the fourth period, as California cruised to the win.
Caudel paced California with 19 points on 5-of-11 shooting and 7-of-11 from the foul line.
"Meleigha is one of the hardest workers I've ever had," Sangster said. "... She's done a great job this year of attacking, attacking, attacking. Now everything's starting to open up for her. She kind of put it all together tonight. She was able to attack the rim, she hit her free throws and she was able to knock down some big shots."
Akrista Greer led Versailles with 10 points, as the Lady Tigers turned the ball over 24 times and hit just 9-of-38 shots.
California (21-6) plays top-seeded Blair Oaks for the district title at 6:30 p.m. Friday, weather permitting.
"If you want to watch a great girls basketball game, come back Friday night or whenever we get to play this game with the weather coming in," Sangster said. "... When the dust settles, whoever wins this district has really earned it.
"It's really fitting we get to square off in a district championship game. I'm really looking forward to it."