WARDSVILLE - Already down two starters, the California Lady Pintos probably didn't think it could get any worse.
Well, maybe it could.
"I've never seen anything like this," California coach Bobby Sangster said Monday night after the second-seeded Lady Pintos topped the Eugene Lady Eagles 59-32 in the first round of the Class 3 District 8 Tournament. "I just have to shake my head."
The Lady Pintos may have lost starter No. 3 Meleigha Caudel to an ankle injury suffered late in the first half against the Lady Eagles. The senior was playing defense when she was injured and immediately came off the floor.
"The girl attacked her on a drive hard and she stepped back and I don't know what happened," Sangster said. "It just looked funny."
Caudel, who has been a steady performer while averaging more than 17 points per game during the past few weeks, did not play in the second half and her status is unknown for Wednesday night's semifinal against third-seeded Blair Oaks.
"We're going to get it checked out and take it from there," Sangster said.
The Lady Pintos were already playing without starters Kelsey Roush and Sydney Deeken. Roush is out after suffering her second concussion of the season, while Deeken was missing her first game after breaking her left foot over the weekend. Deeken was on crutches with a walking boot Monday night.
With those obstacles, California could have been ready for the season to be done. But ...
"I look up and we have girls stepping up, playing well, doing things we talk about in practice every single day," Sangster said. "If the girls continue to fight like that, we're going to be OK."
Caudel hit a pair of 3-pointers in a 12-0 run to start the game for California. Eugene got on the board at the buzzer on a 3-pointer by Nola Polly to make it 12-3.
California then outscored Eugene 19-9 in the second quarter to take a 31-12 advantage into intermission. The Lady Pintos were 12-of-28 from the field in the first half, including 6-of-15 on 3-pointers.
"We're not afraid of the 3-point line," Sangster said.
The Lady Pintos led by as many as 21 points in the third quarter, the final time coming after a pair of Kayla Allison free throws that made it 40-19 heading into the final period. The final 27-point lead was California's biggest of the game.
Mara Caudel finished with a game-high 11 points for California (17-8). A total of nine Lady Pintos scored in the game, a balance Sangster believes can fuel the team the remainder of the season.
"It's dangerous," he said. "If you have a person who goes out and scores 30, it makes the life of a coach easy, but it doesn't make it tough on the opponent. If you've got four or five players, you can be almost impossible to stop. And we played some of that basketball in this game.
"As long as one person doesn't feel like they have to do everything, we're going to be OK."
Chelsea Doerhoff finished with nine points and six rebounds to pace seventh-seeded Eugene (4-20). Lexi Dickerson and Polly added seven points each.
California and Blair Oaks will meet at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
"It's going to be a tough task," Sangster said. "I'm going to have to coach a perfect game, the girls will have to play well."
The first semifinal at 6 p.m. will pit top-seeded Boonville against fifth-seeded Southern Boone.