Del Oro girls can't hang on
SACRAMENTO — Amidst the thunderous roar of a crowd mostly decked out in black and yellow, Del Oro High’s hopes for a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship were spoiled by a familiar foe. St. Mary’s of Stockton edged out the Golden Eagles 70-65 as the state power won its record 12th section crown.
If the No. 1 seeded Rams were expecting to easily add a fourth consecutive title, they quickly found out the Golden Eagles wouldn’t let them win by a landslide.
Del Oro set the tone for the game in the first half with aggressive defense and on-point shooting. Senior Madeline Campbell made her first 3-pointer within minutes of the start of the game and racked up 20 more for the Golden Eagles.
Del Oro senior Crystal Sewell, who won the CIF’s sportsmanship award for Del Oro, matched her for another 23 points and led in rebounds with eight.
While they gave the Rams a fight until the bitter end of the fourth quarter, a succession of fouls hurt Del Oro all game long.
“Both teams played with intensity and effort. We didn’t lose for a lack of effort,” said Del Oro coach Mike Takayama. “I felt like they were getting the benefits of some close calls, but I would never put it on the officials.”
Takayama said it was ultimately the team’s responsibility to secure their win.
Pivotal senior starter Belle Obert, who had six rebounds, fouled out in the second half after playing just 16 minutes due to foul trouble.
St. Mary’s senior Ali Gibson led the Rams in scoring with 25 points and seven rebounds to pull away from the Golden Eagles, who led by as many as 13 points in the third quarter. Teammate Onome Jemerigbe scored 23.
The Rams forced Del Oro into 31 turnovers and outscored the Eagles 22-12 from the free-throw line.
Arco Arena, newly renamed Power-Balance Pavilion, has been like a mirage to the Del Oro girls the past few years — always close — but never quite obtainable. While the Golden Eagles may be going home section runners-up, they accomplished their goal of making it to a professional arena and giving St. Mary’s a serious challenge.
“It was awesome and exactly what we dreamed about from the beginning of the season and freshman year,” Sewell said. “I think we played really hard. I am disappointed that we lost, but not disappointed in how e played.”
Both teams will move on to the CIF NorCal playoffs, which will begin Tuesday at home sites. The brackets for the CIF playoffs will be released today. Sewell said the Del Oro girls have already zeroed in on their redemption.
“I expect to go to (Power Balance Pavilion) again and have another chance to beat St. Mary’s,” Sewell said.
Reach Sara Seyydin at firstname.lastname@example.org.