Denise Sitton grew up only about 10 miles down the road from UC Riverside. She played basketball at La Sierra High, averaging more than 20 points a game and earning All-Southern Section honors.
She was heavily recruited by Riverside, but instead chose Cal State Northridge. Now, every time she takes the court against Riverside, she's a larger target than Big Bird in a shooting gallery.
Thursday night at Riverside, Sitton was banged all over the court, but recovered to preserve a 60-59 California Collegiate Athletic Assn. victory for the Lady Matadors (12-4 overall, 2-2 in conference).
With Northridge leading, 59-57, with 50 seconds left in the game, Highlander guard Vanessa Potter drove the lane for what looked to be the tying basket.
But Sitton stepped into the lane and took a charge and the basket was disallowed.
Moments later, the junior forward hit a free throw to give Northridge a three-point lead.
While the free throw proved to be the difference, the big play was the charging call.
"That was the key for us," Lady Matador Coach Leslie Milke said. "Thank God it was called on them."
Riverside Coach Nancy Paris agreed that it was a good call, but added that Potter's basket should have counted.
"Yeah, it should have been a charge, but the basket was definitely good," she said. "It didn't just come down to one play, though. The reason it came down to that was because we made a lot of mistakes earlier in the game that allowed everything to be so close."
Sitton, one of four Lady Matadors to score in double figures, had 12 points, but was fouled 10 times.
"Every time we play them, they put someone on me to swing elbows," Sitton said. "They think they can take me out of my game by doing that."
They didn't. Sitton also dominated under the boards, collecting nine rebounds.
Forward Tara Flanagan paced Northridge with 15 points, while center Regan O'Hara scored 13 and had 10 rebounds. Guard Renee Loch added 10 points.
Potter scored a game-high 25 for the Highlanders (11-5, 1-3), and Laura Spellacy and Susie Karr scored 12 apiece.