Del Oro's 'dream season' halted by Rams

By: Mike Ray, Loomis News Sports Editor
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It might not be next season — it actually may take a few more years down the road to really sink in — but somewhere in the not-too-distant future the Del Oro Lady Eagles basketball team of 2010-11 will earn its kudos for having perhaps the best girls hoop team ever produced in the 52-year history of the Loomis high school. No, the Lady Eagles’ dream season ended one game short of where they wanted it to be, but be sure that last Saturday’s tough 56-48 loss in the CIF Northern California Div. II finals against St. Mary’s of Stockton wasn’t because of lack of effort. “What can I say ... this was a special group,” said Del Oro coach Mike Takayama following the tough loss at Power Balance Pavilion. “They did everything we asked of them and gave us some memories we won’t forget for a long time.” Del Oro, backed by a huge cheering throng urging them on the entire 32 minutes, banged with the nationally ranked Rams the whole way but a cold stretch at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth doomed the Lady Eagles’ chances of pulling off the upset. Instead, St. Mary’s, 27-2, will face Rialto, the Southern California Regional winner, at 6 p.m. Friday for the CIF State championship. The game will be televised live by CSN California. Saturday’s rough-and-tumble game was more than just a case of déjà vu, though. Just two weeks ago it was the Rams who stopped the Lady Eagles’ hopes of being the Sac-Joaquin Division II champions in the same venue by a 70-65 count. However, in the first meeting Del Oro was guilty of several turnovers against the famed Rams’ full-court pressure defense that had a direct effect on the outcome of the game. This time, the Lady Eagles handled the Rams press with relative ease but ran into a tough St. Mary’s defense that in the second half limited Del Oro to just 21 points after the Loomis hoop-gals had grabbed a 27-24 lead at halftime. “They took over momentum early in the third quarter,” said Takayama. “But 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. She also snagged nine rebounds. Teammate Crystal Sewell also brought dynamic energy to the court with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Sewell was Del Oro’s recipient of the CIF’s Pursuing Victory With Honor sportsmanship award. “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. Del Oro’s scoring was rounded out by Becky Duncan and Brianna Ruiz with six points each and Stephanie Geyer with a pair. St. Mary’s was led by Ali Gibson with 15 points, while senior center Kendall Kenyon had a game-high 20 rebounds. 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 50-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.