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Del Oro ousted by a familiar foe

Fletcher’s career-high 21 not enough as Sacramento fights off Eagles’ rally in semifinals
By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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GALT ” Ali Fletcher wasn't part of Del Oro High's girls basketball squad in 2005 and 2006 to remember Sacramento knocking the Golden Eagles out of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs two straight seasons. The Del Oro senior still did all she could to try to prevent it from happening again Wednesday night, scoring a career-high 21 points in a 51-46 semifinal loss to the defending-champion Dragons. I knew before the game started that I wanted this to be my game because it was either win or go home, Fletcher said. I knew this could be the last game of my high school career. I just went in with the mindset that regardless I was going to play the best game I could. On an off night for senior point guard Emilie Johnson, Fletcher took control in the second half to help Del Oro rally back from a 23-16 halftime deficit. Johnson, who scored only two first-half points and finished with 13, assisted a Fletcher layup to open the third quarter. Fletcher scored the next five points in the game as the Eagles tied the score at 23 and again at 25. The Dragons (25-1) led 33-27 after three quarters before Fletcher pulled Del Oro to within four by hitting two free throws to open the fourth quarter. Johnson hit consecutive sets of free throws to cut the deficit to 37-35 with 4:18 left to play. Her 3-pointer 22 seconds later knotted the score at 38. Del Oro tied the score twice more, the last time at 43-43 on a put back with 1:32 left. Sacramento's leading scorer Erica Barnes, who finished with 14 points, made a layup to put the Dragons back on top with 1:12 left, but it was Brittany Shine's 3-pointer as the shot clock expired that clinched it, giving Sacramento a 48-43 lead with 32 seconds left. Sacramento also beat Del Oro in the section quarterfinals in 2006 and in the semifinals in 2005. It's not any more frustrating, Del Oro head coach Mike Takayama said. It's just frustrating for this team not being able to move on. We had a great shot at it. We were right there with them. They made some plays down the stretch, a few more than we did. Johnson's single basket in the first half was a season-low. I'm not sure exactly if it was more hesitancy because she wanted to get everybody else involved and let the game come to her a little bit more, but she started attacking a lot more in the second half, Takayama said. They just did a really good job defending. I felt like it was our year, said Johnson, who still remembers losing to Sacramento in the section semifinals as a freshman. We played hard for 32 minutes. They just made a few shots. I was just trying to do my job as a point guard. I know my role on this team, but I was trying to get everybody involved. Del Oro finished the season 23-5 after winning its fourth consecutive Sierra Foothill League championship. The girls played great all year, Takayama said. They could have knocked us out earlier in the game, but we came all the way back and were right there. They just showed their hearts out there. That's the mark of this team.