Eagles fall into Dragons’ lair

Sacramento jumps on Del Oro early, as Eagles finish the season 26-2
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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GALT — After crushing nearly every challenger for the past three months, the Del Oro High girls basketball team didn’t know how to react Wednesday night at Galt High School. Sacramento dominated the first half on its way to a 60-33 victory in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinals. The Dragons earned a berth in the championship game Friday at Arco Arena while the Golden Eagles’ season came to an end. “We talked about keeping contact with them in the first half and I thought we could make a run if we were close, in the second half,” Del Oro coach Mike Takayama said. “All that went out the window pretty early. But to finish the season 26-2 – that’s not too bad.” Sacramento (22-7) was too quick, too tall and too aggressive for Del Oro, especially in the first half. The Dragons jumped out to a 7-0 lead and used their suffocating defense to go up 16-3 by the end of the first quarter. The disastrous first half got even worse when Eagles’ senior center Courtney Nolen was whistled for her third foul early in the second quarter. Sacramento dominated inside to close out the half and led 39-8 at halftime. “I don’t know if it was nerves or what, but we weren’t composed when we came out,” Del Oro senior Sami Gray said. “We got back in the second half, but it was too late. We definitely played with all our heart so I was proud of that.” The Golden Eagles played much better in the third quarter as Nolen and leading scorer Katie Pulliam heated up. But a pair of 3-pointers by Sacramento’s lone senior Chamiya Reaves late in the third quarter silenced Del Oro’s mini-rally. Junior Brittany Shine led the Dragons with 16 points. Junior forward Erica Barnes, who stands 6-2, added 12 points. Kyra Dunn, a 6-3 center, added 12 rebounds and four blocks for Sacramento. “It was a different experience,” the 6-0 Nolen said of facing Sacramento’s tall, athletic front line. “In league we never saw anything like that, so we weren’t used to it.” Del Oro played in the section semifinals for the fourth year in a row and faced Sacramento for the third time in four seasons. The Dragons have won each time and their defense led the way this year. “We came out and dedicated ourselves to man-to-man defense,” Sacramento coach Michele Massari said. “I think our pressure really got to them.” Sophomore Madeline Campbell, Nolen and Hodge each scored six points to lead Del Oro. Senior Kezzia Tragesser tossed in four off the bench, as did Crystal Sewell and Pulliam. The Eagles entered the season with lowered expectations after the graduation of point guard Emilie Johnson in 2008. Hodge replaced Johnson at the point and turned in a stellar senior year. Pulliam emerged as a reliable scorer, senior Lucy Campbell stepped up as a key role player and senior Meghan Huckaby was an excellent defender and a capable scorer. The Eagles were without Huckaby for the playoffs after she broke her arm in a car accident. Del Oro’s season will be remembered for the undefeated run through the Sierra Foothill League and one of the best records in school history. “People thought we weren’t going to do well at all and we showed those people,” Hodge said. “We accomplished a lot more than people thought we would, so I’m proud of that.”