Del Oro defeated by familiar foe

By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Power Balance Pavilion — Redemption proved elusive for the Del Oro girls basketball team as St. Mary’s of Stockton served up a 56-48 victory, sealing their sixth Northern California Division II championship. Saturday’s rough and tumble game at Power Balance Pavilion was more than just a case of déjà vu though. The Rams (27-2) snapped the Golden Eagles’ (27-4) hopes of being the Sac-Joaquin Division II Champions two weeks ago in the same venue. With the sting of a back-and-forth battle that ultimately culminated in a 70-65 victory for St. Mary’s still fresh in their hearts, Del Oro set out to take down their familiar foe. That perennial powerhouse, the Rams, proved that even after eleven trips to NorCals they still fight for every win. By half time the Golden Eagles had secured a fragile 27-24 lead, only to see St. Mary’s explode on offense in the second half. “They took over momentum early in the third quarter,” said Del Oro coach Mike Takayama. “What an experience and a ride for us.” Del Oro senior Madeline Campbell, who was double-teamed most of the game, led the Golden Eagles in scoring with 18 points. Teammate Crystal Sewell also brought dynamic energy to the court with 16 points and ten rebounds. “They are an amazing group of girls,” Sewell said. “I wasn’t as nervous as last time and felt the game was ours and we could have won.” Senior Belle Obert led Del Oro in rebounds, with 11. Their tactics surprised even St. Mary’s coach Tom Gonsalvez. “I was surprised they played man-to-man,” Gonsalvez said. “I didn’t think they could match our speed.” That speed was also backed by skill. St. Marys’ Ali Gibson led the Rams with 15 points. Senior Kendall Kenyon had a game-high 20 rebounds. Gonsalvez said that even with six NorCal banners, the win was still exciting. “This was as rewarding as anything I have ever won because the expectations are so high for this team. They don’t take plays off,” Gonsalvez said. In a small town like Loomis fans mean business. They arrived by the suburban-full, donning yellow and black battle paint, to rally around Del Oro. Saturday was the Golden Eagles’ first trip to NorCals since a loss in 1999. Takayama has been a coach at Del Oro for 25 years. What originally began as a volunteer position to earn gym access has become a passion for Takayama, who is a local financial advisor. After a fifty-plus-game winning streak in league over the past few years and finally making it to division championships he said he was especially proud of this year’s team. Many of those players are also honor roll students and will be graduating this year. Campbell will go on to play basketball for UC Santa Barbara, while senior Becky Duncan is considering attending UC Davis. The future success of the Golden Eagles rests on the shoulders of players like sophomores Brianna Ruiz. Ruiz started for Del Oro and played nearly 27 minutes in Saturday’s game. She is also a leading scorer for the season, averaging 11.7 points per game. Takayama said in an interview earlier this year that Ruiz had the potential to be the best player to come out of the region. While redemption slipped through the Golden Eagles’ fingers Saturday, it may not be too far in the distance with that kind of up-and-coming talent. Reach Sara Seyydin at