March 1, 2013
Senior leaders help CBS to outbattle Vanden in D-III girls final

Niel Valmores and Ana Burch have been through a lot together.

They've played basketball on the same team since the sixth grade, and the have been four-year players and senior leaders this season for the Christian Brothers girls varsity.

For the first three years, they saw their seasons end in disappointment in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoff semifinals.

But this year, when they made it to Friday's D-III championship game at Sleep Train Arena, they were not going to be denied.

With Burch and Valmores playing their best at the end - and with a dominating all-around performance from junior teammate Alicia Gonzalez throughout - the top-seeded Falcons held off No. 2 Vanden 61-56.

After Vanden tied the game 47-47 on Toni Taylor's two free throws with 4:05 to play, Burch, Valmores and Gonzalez hit consecutive baskets then, outbattled Vanden in the final two minutes.

"It took awhile to get used to the atmosphere and being here for the first time," said Valmores, who finished with 15 points and committed only two turnovers against constant fast and furious Vanden defensive pressure. "But I think in the fourth quarter we buckled down."

Burch, a 5-foot-5 scrapper and one of the team's shortest players, grabbed an amazing 12 rebounds and added seven points while Gonzalez had a game-high 18 points and eight rebounds.

Mariah Williams led Vanden (27-4) with 17 points, Taylor had 16 and Kayla Blair seven points and 13 rebounds.

It was a wild and physical game, bodies flying and hitting the floor - something one might expect from two programs that had won one girls section basketball championship between them. There were 51 turnovers and 44 fouls.

Both teams shuttled in players like a hockey line. The Falcons (24-7) played 12; Vanden 11, so the pace was never slow.

"I embrace physical," Burch said. "I'm so proud of my team and how far we've come."

It was Christian Brothers' second section title. The Falcons won a D-IV crown in 2008 in CBS coach Ron Gully's first season.

But the second one was pretty special for Gully because the Falcons overcame several early season injuries, especially the loss of Valmores. She missed seven games, five of them losses, because of a severe concussion.

Now with everyone healthy, Gully thinks that his team can also contend for CIF Northern California and state championships.

"These guys have a great balance of experience and youth," Gully said. "Tonight the seniors stepped up, and the young guns held their own."

Freshman post Dominique McNeely came through with a strong game (nine points and seven rebounds) before fouling out. Sophomore Kira McKechnie, who shares inside duties with McNeely, added five points and six rebounds.

CBS will find out Sunday who it will host in the first round of the NorCal playoffs.



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Bee staff writers Joe Davidson and Bill Paterson provide news, analysis and insight on the area high school sports scene in their Prep Blog. Have a question to ask them? Send them an email any time at jdavidson@sacbee.com or bpaterson@sacbee.com.

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