By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Back in the state rankings, the Santa Rosa JC women’s basketball team hosts some of California’s top squads in the Bear Cubs’ annual tournament that tips off Friday.
Among the eight teams entered in the Caren Franci Invitational are state No. 1 City College of San Francisco and No. 10 San Joaquin Delta, with Santa Rosa rounding out the top 20.
The tournament runs at Haehl Pavilion through the weekend with the championship game set for 6 p.m. Sunday.
The invitational honors the SRJC Hall of Fame coach, who led the women’s basketball program for 32 years.
With the invitational, Santa Rosa continues a run of five tournaments as the young Bear Cubs take on a busy schedule before beginning play in the always tough Big 8 Conference.
Five conference teams are in the state rankings.
Santa Rosa is coming off three wins in four games at the College of the Sequoias tournament. The wins helped move Santa Rosa into the California Community College Athletic Association rankings.
Leading the Bear Cubs are Gretchen Harrigan and a trio of other one-time Empire prep standouts.
A former Empire player of the year and all-state selection, Harrigan averages 22 points and eight rebounds a contest. Harrigan is a first-year player out of Casa Grande.
Shooting guard Madison Sowards, an All-Empire player at Maria Carrillo, averages 11 points and four rebounds.
Sharpshooting forward Erin Skinner of Rancho Cotate averages nine points a game.
Point guard Stephanie Sack, an All-Empire player at Casa Grande, does it all for Santa Rosa, from 3-point shots to rebounds.
A perennial state power, Santa Rosa seeks another Big 8 title and deep playoff run.
A year ago, Santa Rosa fell in the state final four, one step away from an appearance in the championship contest. Santa Rosa reached the quarterfinals in 2012, won the state championship in 2011, and reached the final four in 2010.
Santa Rosa also won the state title in 1988.