Del Oro’s ultimate challenge

Golden Eagles confident, but wary of section power St. Mary’s and and its relentless pressure
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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The Del Oro High girls basketball team has made many challengers look like imposters this season. Coach Mike Takayama knows Saturday’s opponent will be the genuine article.
The Golden Eagles need no introduction to St. Mary’s, whom they will take on for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title at Power Balance Pavilion. The Rams won the last three Division III titles. In the last 11 years, the Rams own 10 titles in three different divisions.
Ironically, Del Oro’s last section crown came in 1999, one year before St. Mary’s embarked on its decade of dominance. The Rams’ signature full-court pressure and explosive offense often lead to huge blowouts. Through their first three playoff games this season they’ve outscored their opponents 250-85.
“There’s no way we can duplicate their pressure in practice,” Takayama said. “They’re very committed to their press. They want to create chaos out there. But we have the athletes now and the ball handlers to deal with those situations. We’re very capable.”
Del Oro has done its best St. Mary’s impression for much of the season, sometimes even utilizing its own disruptive press. The Golden Eagles crushed El Camino 66-37 Wednesday, humbling a team that had lost just once all year.
“I think with each game, we’re that much more focused,” Takayama said. “We’re starting to hit our stride. We’re peaking at the right time. Against El Camino we had a really strong start and once we get rolling, we can knock down a lot of shots.”
Senior Madeline Campbell led Del Oro (25-3) with a game-high 19 points against El Camino. The UC Santa Barbara-bound guard can shoot the 3 or drive to the basket with either hand.
St. Mary’s (24-2) features a Division I player of its own in Ali Gibson. The Oregon State signee is a versatile 6-foot guard. The Rams feature six players over 5-10, including 6-1 Kendall Kenyon and several explosive guards, led by Regina Camera.
The Golden Eagles counter with 6-2 forward Belle Obert, who is bound for Butler on a volleyball scholarship. Senior Crystal Sewell (5-10) and sophomore Brianna Ruiz (5-10) bring scoring punch and size to the lineup and point guard Becky Duncan will be a key with her ball handling.
Takayama said the game could come down to Del Oro’s improved bench play.
“We hope that we can use our depth,” the veteran coach said. “We’re going to get contributions from a lot of different players if we’re going to beat them because they’re very athletic and deep.”

Sac-Joaquin Section Finals at Power Balance Pavilion
General admission prices: Adults $17; Students $8
General admission gates open: Friday, 3:30 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.
Parking: $12 - autos; $30 - RVs and buses
Radio: KAHI 950 AM in Auburn will broadcast the Division II girls title game at 1 p.m. and the Division IV boys title game at 3 p.m.