By Harold Abend & Chace Bryson:
Despite a closely-contested final from a strong St. Ignatius squad, the St. Mary’s-Stockton girls basketball took care of business in the West Coast Jamboree Platinum Division final on Dec. 30 at Las Positas College.
Rams’ 5-foot-9 guard Mi’Cole Cayton would take home the Scoop Jackson MVP award for the Platinum Division after posting 16 points, five rebounds, five steals and three assists in the 60-51 finals victory. However, the better postgame award story belongs to sophomore guard Sierra Smith. She was honored with the Jim Capoot Award which celebrates the tournament’s best example of sportsmanship and inspirational play.
But the rest of the story is the moving part.
In November of 2011, Jim Capoot, the former Vallejo High girls basketball head coach who led his team to the 2009 CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship, was killed in the line of duty as a Vallejo police officer.
Smith is the daughter of Kindred Ross, an assistant to Capoot at Vallejo when they won the CIFSJS title and until his tragic murder. Nine-year old Sierra was a ball girl on the 2009 championship team and on the 2010 team as well.
“That day I had a middle school game and when I got home I found out he died,” Smith said. “Jim was in my life. I was at every game and every practice. I wouldn’t be where I’m at without him. I was just nine and he would let me practice with the high school varsity girls. Once I found out he died I lost part of who I was. He was really close to me.”
Besides Sierra and her mother, Capoot was also close to her older brother Jason Galbraith.
“My brother is only a Marine because Jim was a Marine,” Smith said.
Sierra knew about the Jim Capoot Award and its criteria and dreamed of winning it last year as a freshman.
“I remember last year I cried when I didn’t win because I thought I let him down,” Smith continued. “When my name was called this year (pause and sigh), at that moment all I could think about was I knew Jim was proud of me. This year for sure I made him proud.”
Smith had seven points, five assists and three steals in the championship game. One day earlier she posted 13 points, eight assists and four steals in a semifinal win over South Medford.
BATTERING RAMS: Aside from Cayton, and Smith to a lesser degree, St. Mary’s showcased the West Coast Jamboree crowd just how deep its nationally-ranked team is.
Aquira DeCosta, a 6-foot-2 freshman phenom, had a monster double-double against St. Ignatius. DeCosta finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds. She can play any position on the court, and is considered by many analysts as one the top girls from the class of 2018 in the country.
Meanwhile, the 5-foot-8 Angel Johnson was able to go up against the big girls from St. Ignatius. With 10 rebounds (nine points), the Rams junior had more rebounds than any of the Wildcats girls.
“I don’t expect her to dominate inside but Angel just continues to over achieve,” Rams coach Tom Gonsalves remarked.
Catch the rest of the article in SportStars Magazine new issue #95 here: Jam-Packed