After Falling In The Quarterfinals Of The Section Playoffs, McClatchy High School Girls Basketball Looks To Make The Most Of Its Inclusion In The State Playoffs •
*EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an updated version of a story which first appeared in the March 1 issue of SportStars NOW
Few tears were shed the night of Feb. 22, but the group of McClatchy high school girls basketball players (Sacramento) looked dejected and disappointed.
Although the fifth-seeded Lions had to hit the road in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, the group felt confident going into that night’s test against No. 4 Edison-Stockton.
McClatchy high school girls basketball had dropped a previous matchup to this same team. 53-31, in the Pittsburg Shootout tournament. But, they were missing two of their starters that game.
“I wasn’t able to play in the first game because I had a concussion,” said McClatchy’s junior guard Kamryn Hall. “So watching that game and not being able to help my team, was rough.”
The rematch was supposed to be different.
With Hall back — the team’s point guard and best post defender — and a full roster, McClatchy hung with Edison early but fell behind by double digits in the second quarter. Despite a comeback in the third period, the Lions couldn’t finish the deal and fell 64-58, ending their hopeful playoff run.
“They killed us on the boards — I think they had 28 points in the paint and we only had 12,” Lions coach Jeff Ota said. “There’s no excuse — they beat us.”
McClatchy was fresh off a 78-50 win over Brookside Christian-Stockton in the opening round, led by a strong performance from Hall.
“She’s our big, but she’s also our point guard,” Ota acknowledged. “She sees the floor well, she can shoot. But, she also has to guard the opponent’s big on the other end.”
But Hall got in foul trouble early and her teammates couldn’t match their opening round performance in the rematch with the Vikings. In fact, Hall was held scoreless in the game — a rarity for her.
It could have been the road atmosphere that caused some early jitters, or the team’s lackluster second quarter when they struggled to hit open 3s that cost them the game. Or maybe it was the pressure; living up to state title expectations.
“Anytime you lose 16 players and half of them were starters, it’s going to be hard on the team,” Hall admitted. “Everyone at school asks us about going to state. They’ll ask a couple times a week, especially during playoffs, ‘How many points did you win by?’ So they assume we’re just going to win every game.”
The loss dropped McClatchy to 23-6. The 26 wins ranks fifth in school history over the past decade. Additionally, the team clung to the hope that it might get a call from the CIF on March 4 offering a chance to add to that total.
“We were disappointed, but I’ve seen worse locker rooms,” Ota admitted. “They seemed to take it in stride, because when we win, we try not to get too high, and when we lose, we don’t get too low.
“We may still have an outside chance at NorCals. It’s a little funky, but because a couple of teams may get pulled up to Open Division, and they’ll need to fill the Division 1 bracket, we may get in. We won’t know until the section playoffs end.”
Amidst the uncertainty, the team continued practicing.
“We just want to be thankful for what we have because you never know when your last practice will be,” Ota confessed. “So we always tell them, ‘We don’t want this to be our last practice.’ And ‘Don’t take it for granted.’
“If we get another chance, we’ll make the most of it.”
As it turned out, they’ll get that chance. The Lions were awarded a No. 14 seed in the 16-team Division I Northern Regional bracket. They will travel to Alameda for a matchup with No. 3 St. Joseph Notre Dame at 6 p.m. on March 7.
Should the trip not go well for McClatchy, the program will still return 11 players next year. That includes Hall and fellow guard Nia Lowery. Who has the potential to be the program’s next big recruit following last year’s collegiate-bound players Courtesy Clark (San Jose State), Jordan Cruz (Utah), Sara Shimizu (Hawaii-Hilo) and Kamaree Donald (College of Southern Idaho).
“It was hard to replace those players, but this group did a good job,” Ota added.
Lowery was one of the standouts against Edison despite the loss. She had 19 points to lead the Lions. Also, she made a handful of defensive plays to help her team climb back in the game.
If she gets another shot at a title this season, you can bet she’ll be ready.
“I just want to do anything I can to help my team win,” Lowery added. “That’s all we want — just to win.”
McClatchy High School Girls Basketball Story By STEVEN WILSON | Photos By JAMES K. LEASH