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Redemption ahead for Lady Eagles?

Del Oro girls basketball opens the Norcal playoffs tonight at home
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Del Oro girls basketball opens the Norcal playoffs tonight at home There aren’t many second chances that come along in life or in a different sense, girls high school basketball. But tonight, the Del Oro High Lady Eagles begin a process that they hope will lead down the road to one of those second chances that could end up being of bigger proportions. Still feeling the sting of Saturday’s 70-65 loss to national power St. Mary’s of Stockton in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section’s Div. II championship game, the Lady Eagles returned to practice Monday afternoon with a lot of questions dealing with what might have been. “We played well,” said Del Oro coach Mike Takayama about the Rams. “St. Mary’s played just a bit better. We’re disappointed that we didn’t get the section banner but we’re still playing and that’s all you can ask for.” Despite the loss on Saturday, Del Oro received a consolation boost of sorts on Sunday when the CIF released its Northern California Regional brackets. Despite not being a section champion, Del Oro earned the respect of the regional seeding committee by drawing a No. 3 seed in the 12-team girls Div. II field. Del Oro (25-4) was scheduled to open the NorCal playoffs today at home with tip off at 7 p.m. against Tuesday’s winner between No. 11 seed Chico (17-9) and No. 6 seed Clayton Valley (26-3). Tonight’s second round victor would then advance to Saturday’s semi-final round, also set for a home sites at 7 p.m. The lower half of Del Oro’s bracket on Tuesday had Santa Rosa, the No. 10, seed playing No. 7 seed El Camino. That winner will play at No. 2 seed Presentation of San Jose, also at 7 p.m. today. The highest remaining seed will host Saturday’s semi-final with the winner advancing to the NorCal Regional final slated for Saturday, March 19, at 2 p.m. at Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento. On the upper half of the bracket, the top seeds are No. 1 St. Mary’s and No. 4 Dougherty Valley of San Ramon. The chance of Del Oro getting another shot at St. Mary’s next Saturday is a possibility that Takayama is hoping could arise. “We’re taking things one game at a time but, yes, that possibility is out there,” said the Del Oro coach. For three quarters in last Saturday’s contest, the Lady Eagles stood toe-to-toe with the nationally ranked Rams and for the most part more than held their own. Del Oro, with a huge sea of Black and Gold clad fans flooding Power Balance Pavilion to urge on the Lady Eagles, led 21-18 after a quarter and 41-36 at halftime. The third quarter proved just as entertaining and although the Lady Eagles were out-pointed, 16-12, Del Oro seemed on the brink of pulling off the upset, still with a 53-51 margin heading into the final eight minutes. In the pivotal fourth stanza, Del Oro did a more than commendable job in holding St. Mary’s to just three field goals in 12 attempts from the floor. But the Rams made a parade to the foul line where they sank 10 of 14 charity shots, which made the difference. On the afternoon, the Rams hit on 22 of 33 free throws compared to just 12 of 17 for the Lady Eagles. A total of 25 fouls were whistled on Del Oro with starters Belle Obert, Stephanie Ruiz and Taylor Donnot all exiting via the five-foul route. Del Oro set the tone for the game in the first half with aggressive defense and on-point shooting. Senior Madeline Campbell made her first 3-pointer within minutes of the start of the game and racked up 20 more for the Golden Eagles. Del Oro senior Crystal Sewell, who won the CIF’s sportsmanship award for Del Oro, matched her for another 23 points and led in rebounds with eight. While they gave the Rams a fight until the bitter end of the fourth quarter, a succession of fouls hurt Del Oro all game long. “Both teams played with intensity and effort. We didn’t lose for a lack of effort,” said Takayama. “I felt like they were getting the benefits of some close calls, but I would never put it on the officials.” Pivotal senior starter Belle Obert, who had six rebounds, fouled out in the second half after playing just 16 minutes due to foul trouble. St. Mary’s senior Ali Gibson led the Rams in scoring with 25 points and seven rebounds to pull away from the Golden Eagles, who led by as many as 13 points in the third quarter. Teammate Onome Jemerigbe scored 23. The Rams forced Del Oro into 31 turnovers and outscored the Eagles 22-12 from the free-throw line. “It was awesome and exactly what we dreamed about from the beginning of the season and freshman year,” Sewell said. “I think we played really hard. I am disappointed that we lost, but not disappointed in how e played.” ~ Staff report