SACRAMENTO — As they walked off the platform of their postgame press conference after Saturday’s 56-45 loss to Berkeley for the Division I NorCal title at Sleep Train Arena, members of the Oak Ridge girls basketball team held their heads high — and with good reason.
Looking back, the Trojans had captured an outright Delta River League title (10-0 record) and finished with a 28-5 mark. Overall, Oak Ridge averaged 54.1 points per game and held its opponents to an average of 39.3. In league, the Trojans scored an average of 61 points per game and allowed just 36.3 points per outing.
Entering the Sac-Joaquin Section D-I playoffs as the No. 2 seed, Oak Ridge breezed through its first two playoff opponents in Bella Vista and Monterey Trail before losing to Kennedy, 65-42 in the semifinals.
“The way we played in the Kennedy game left a bad taste,” Oak Ridge head coach Steve White said. “The players (were) committed to playing better and going out on a better performance.”
Despite the loss, the Trojans earned an automatic berth to NorCals and captured road wins at Amador Valley, Wilcox of Santa Clara and Heritage in the East Bay — the latter a thrilling 51-50 win that avenged an earlier loss.
“Once we got the first win at Amador Valley, the players really bought in to the idea that anyone can win the NorCal Championships,” White said.
Against Berkeley, Oak Ridge guard Ali Bettencourt, who averaged 22.5 points per game in the first three NorCal games, nailed two three-pointers to give her team an early 8-0 lead but the Yellow Jackets had too much and advanced to play Long Beach Poly for the state title.
“They gave it everything they had,” said White after Saturday’s game. “They fought back. We’re proud of everybody here.”
One of Saturday’s key moments shown repeatedly on one Sacramento TV station was Lauren Liebert’s three-pointer with 1:11 left in the fourth quarter that cut the Yellow Jackets’ lead to 51-41.
That trey was more than special for Liebert. In January 2011, Liebert went through knee surgery, re-injured her knee last May and had a second surgery a month later.
“Her goal at the beginning of the year was to step on the floor,” White said.
When asked about her three-pointer, Liebert fought through her emotions.
“It felt great,” Liebert said. “Just being able to play again has always been my dream since the beginning of the season, to step on the court.”
Liebert was one of four seniors along with Haley Anderson, Nikki Dow and Jenna Ford. Other members of this year’s squad were: Bettencourt, Jenn Hoffman, Celeste Vitolas, Yumi Drossos, Sydney Stigerts, Michelle Barkley, Gabby Flores, Shelby Peters, Grace Derksen, Isamar Conde, Jessica Maglietta, Lauren Gaddis and Saraya Smith.
Contact Mike Bush at 530-344-5079 or [email protected] Follow @MBushMtDemo on Twitter.