Del Oro senior star Brianna Ruiz gave the Golden Eagles an emotional lift when she rejoined the team late in the season.
The four-year varsity player and Washington scholarship signee rehabbed her heart out to get back to her team after suffering a summer knee injury.
But Del Oro's go-to player remains fellow senior Stephanie Geyer, as she demonstrated again on Thursday night against Antelope in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II girls quarterfinals in Loomis.
Even playing against one of the area's top big girls, Antelope's 6-foot-1 Tyler Ellis, the 6-1 Geyer dominated, allowing No. 5 Del Oro to coast to a 54-40 victory. The win moves the Golden Eagles into Thursday's semifinals against top-seeded Sacramento at UOP.
Geyer scored 22 points, including 12 of Del Oro's 14 points in the first quarter and 18 of their 26 in the first half. She hit eight of 12 shots and six of eight from the foul line for the game.
The West Point-bound post also dominated on the boards and made numerous defensive stops and heady plays so that Ruiz didn't need to do much. Ruiz hit a three-pointer and attempted only four shots.
"Stephanie's been our workhorse all year, and she took the challenge again tonight," said Del Oro coach Mike Takayama "That enabled us to get the minutes we wanted from Brie and not have to extend her out."
With Del Oro up 38-19 entering the fourth quarter, it looked as if Takayama was going to get some of his reserves valuable playoff experience. But when Antelope closed to within 12 points, 42-30, with a little more than four minutes to play, Takayama sent Geyer back in to help steady the Eagles.
On her first play, she made a sterling back-door pass to Lauren Heyn for a layup. Heyn finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds.
"It is incredible," Geyer said of advancing to the semifinals after losing last season in the quarterfinals to Florin. "I am so happy to have (Ruiz) back....She is an incredible teammate."
Sophomore Cameo Warren led No. 13 Antelope with 18 points and Ellis, plagued by the flu and with Geyer and Heyn yielding little space for her spin moves, added 12 points.
But that Antelope was even in the playoffs was a tribute to Ellis, who helped the Titans program get off the ground four years ago and finishes with nearly 1,000 points scored and more than 1,000 rebounds.
She suffered an ankle injury and missed almost all of January, including half of the Capital Athletic League season. The Titans went from title contenders to third place finishers without her.
But since her return and before playing Del Oro, Antelope had won five of six games, including a 57-52 upset of No. 4 River City on Tuesday.
"We felt if Tyler hadn't had that injury, we'd being playing as a No. 3 or 4 seed," said Antelope coach Sean Chambers.