STOCKTON, Calif. -
The top two girls basketball teams in Northern California faced off Saturday, both desperately in the need of a competitive game.
Neither team exactly got it, but each had something to build off as host
St. Mary's (Stockton, Calif.)
built a 29-point lead and then held off Bishop O'Dowd (Oakland, Calif.)
76-67 in a sloppy but entertaining cross-sectional tune-up to the post season.
St. Mary's, a seven-time state champion that is ranked 19th nationally, made eight of its first 11 3-pointers and forced 37 turnovers overall, to win its 18th straight game behind 23 points from sophomore Charise Holloway
, 21 points by Courtney Range
, and 17 from Regina Camera
. Range added nine rebounds and four steals and Holloway seven rebounds.
The Rams (23-3) raced to a 56-27 lead early in the third quarter before O'Dowd (21-3) took care of the ball, made some shots and got the ball down low to 6-foot-3 post players and foul-plagued Oderah Chidom
(17 points, 12 rebounds) and Kendall Waters
(15 points, 13 rebounds).Ariell Bostick
(10 points) also got hot with a pair 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
O'Dowd, ranked 37th nationally, went on a 40-20 run the rest of the way and actually cut the lead to 72-67 with 34.1 seconds left on a 3-pointer by Alex Kalmbach
and layup from Waters.
But St. Mary's made four free throws down the stretch to snap O'Dowd's 13-game win streak.
"I was really happy with our first half," St. Mary's coach Tom Gonsalves said. "I think we got tired the second half and give O'Dowd credit. That's an excellent team."
Asked how his team was able to close the gap, O'Dowd coach Malik McCord said. "We simply played as team and executed," he said. "Too bad we couldn't have started the game like we ended.
"On the bright side, this is just what we needed. This will help."
O'Dowd, the defending Northern California Division II champion, hasn't had a competitive game since its last loss, 65-58 to the state's top-ranked team Windward-Los Angeles in the championship game of the West Coast Jamboree on Dec. 30.
The Dragons' average margin of victory in the win streak was 53.1 points which included an 81-11 win Friday night.
"We were ahead 51-1 at halftime," McCord said. "I'll take a loss like this than a win like that any day of the week."
St. Mary's, the defending state Division II champ, had a similar path heading into Saturday's game, having won its previous 17 by an average margin of 46.7.
The two teams are favored to get back to the state title game.
"To beat a team as talented as O'Dowd will help with our confidence," Range said. "Hopefully we'll both get back to state and represent well."
Gonsalves doesn't assume his team will cruise right to the state finals. "We don't take anything for granted," he said. "Every title has been precious and hard-earned. To get back there is a long, hard row."
No harder than for opponents to win at St. Mary's Morelli Gym. Gonsalves said he's only lost twice there in his high school career, the last time six years ago.
"No doubt we're very hard to beat here," he said. "We feel comfortable here and that helped with our fast start."
Said Range: "We always try to stay calm no matter who frantic we play. I think we did a good job of that, early when we took the big lead and late when they came back at us hard."
It was all St. Mary's early and Holloway, a transfer from Modesto Christian, and Range set the tone with a 3-pointers to start the game. Camera drilled two more 3s by the end of the quarter and Holloway finished things off with a couple of interior hoops as St. Mary's raced to a 22-13 lead.
"Charise and Courtney aren't our prime 3-point shooters so when they hit, that was very good," Gonsalves said.
It got better for the Rams in the second as Range went to work with two more 3s and they forced 10 more turnovers to go up 45-25 by halftime. The way O'Dowd was taking care of the ball and with Chidom and Waters saddled with three turnovers, this one appeared done.
Especially when St. Mary's opened with a 11-2 run to start the third.
"We just dug ourselves a hole we couldn't get out of," McCord said. "That was nothing how we've been playing of late. Yes, we played last night and had a long trip out here but I thought we were ready. I liked our energy coming in. I thought we were prepared but evidently not."
The Dragons were without one of their key reserves Haleigh Nickerson, a 5-9 senior guard and daughter of former NFL star linebacker Hardy Nickerson. She hurt her knee in Friday's blowout win.
"That did hurt us for sure, but no excuses," McCord said.
Holloway played her best game at St. Mary's, especially considering the moment. She said knowing many of the O'Dowd players from the AAU circuit helped.
"That definitely got me fired up," said the strong 5-9 forward, one of the team's few interior threats. "I knew they had some tall trees in there so I had to use a lot of pump fakes. ... This was a big win for us. I think it proves we're ready for the playoffs." St. Mary's 76, Bishop O'Dowd 67 BISHOP O'DOWD (21-3)
Oderah Chidom 7 3-4 17, Breanna Brown 1 2-4 4, Kendall Waters 7 1-2 15, Randi Jackson 1 0-0 2, Asian Robertson 2 0-0 4, Margaret Huntington 3 0-0 6, Aisha Thomas 2 2-4 6, Ariell Bostick 4 0-0 10, Alex Kaimbach 1 0-0 3. Totals 28 8-14 67. ST. MARY'S (23-3)
Courtney Range 5 8-10 21, Regina Camera 5 4-5 17, Charise Holloway 8 5-8 23, Onome Jemerigbe 3 3-6 9, Maria Lauron-Ramos 1 0-0 3, Unique Coleman 1 1-2 3. Totals 23 21-31 76.
Bishop O'Dowd 13 12 16 26 - 67
St. Mary's 22 23 17 14 - 76 3-point goals:
Bostick 2, Kaimbach, Range 3, Camera 3, Holloway 2, Lauron-Ramos. Fouled out: