March 8, 2013
St. Mary's of Berkeley tops Sac in historic NorCal girls game

It seemed only appropriate that Sacramento and St. Mary's of Berkeley meet in the historic inaugural CIF Northern California Open Division Regional girls basketball game on Friday night in Berkeley.

No. 4 seeded St. Mary's is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year and No. 5 seeded Sacramento is 156 years old, though it's been an independent charter school since 2003.

Despite that neither has much history with one another because they normally play in different divisions - Sacramento in D-II and St. Mary's in D-IV.

But this season, the CIF put what it viewed as the eight best teams in Northern California in the much-debated private-school dominated Open Division.

Sacramento's first foray did not go well. The Dragons fell 43-31 to the Panthers.
It was just two much Mikayla Cowling and Gabby Green for St. Mary's (29-4).

Considered the two best junior prospects in the Class of 2014 in Northern California and two of the top 15 nationally, the 6-foot Cowling scored 18 points, had 11 rebounds and five steals and the 6-1 Green added 14 points, eight steals and eight rebounds as the Panthers move on to Tuesday's semi-finals against Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland, a 55-30 winner over Brookside Christian of Stockton.

Cowling already has verbally committed to Cal and Green is being recruited by every top program in the country.

Sacramento (27-5) struggled to get shots off on the perimeter against the two rangy guards as well arouned the basket against the 5-11 Taylor Berry and 5-10 Elexis Goodwin.

"They were very tall and long," said senior Allie Green, one of four players with a team-high six points for Sacramento. "That definitely affected us. They hit us with a lot of things defensively we didn't expect. We played hard, but we didn't do things right at certain times."

Ayanna Edwards, Sac's 6-4 junior post, had a strong game with nine rebounds, eight blocks and six points and senior reserve Breanna Garrett made all three of her shot attempts, joining Green, Edwards and Chaya Durr with six points each.

But the Dragons hit only 30 percent of their shots from the field and committed 20 turnovers.

Sacramento took an 11-8 early in the second quarter on a Garrett putback, but St. Mary's scored the last 14 points of the quarter to lead 22-11 at the half.

Sacramento could close to no better than nine points twice in the fourth quarter and lost ball-hawking defender Zonyia Cormier to fouls with 5:18 to play.

"We're disappointed in the outcome but not in the kids," said Sacramento coach Michele Massari. "The state championship road starts today for next year."

Massari had mixed emotions about playing in the Open Division instead of D-II, where the Dragons would have had a better shot at playing for NorCal and state championships.

She felt it was too bad that despite making 10 consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section championship games and winning the last three, the reward was a road game against the state's No. 7 ranked team by Cal-Hi Sports.

"It's tough to see other schools in our area that we've beaten have first-round byes and home games," Massari said. "But we've put ourselves in this position by being one of the best teams in the state. So you can't fight that.

"It's historic and it's an honor, even if it made our life extremely more competitive. For teams in the Open Division, it's now like playing a state championship game every night."

Bishop O'Dowd, St. Mary's next opponent, is nationally ranked and is top-ranked in Northern California by NorCalPreps.com and Cal-Hi Sports.

"Everyone's goal is to win state," said Green, who will play next season at Pepperdine. "But things happen for a reason. Maybe tonight showed the players coming back that we need to work harder to get back to this game and perhaps have a different result."

While Green and Garrett will graduate, the Dragons will return most of their key players.

In addition to Durr, Cormier and Edwards, all juniors, and the freshmen trio of Aliceah Hernandez, Andrea Butler and Alana Myers (who was to ill to play Friday night), Simone Sheppard will join the team. She transferred from El Camino to Sacramento after her sophomore season but wasn't allowed to play this season by the section.



About the Prep blog

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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