Ninth-ranked Christian Brothers is among the favorites this season to play for a Sac-Joaquin Section Division III girls basketball title and, possibly, make a deep run in the CIF Northern California playoffs.
But nothing the Falcons face in the weeks ahead will match the claustrophobic atmosphere of last Friday's nonleague meeting at parochial-school rival St. Francis.
"We call it the flashcard game," says CBS coach Ron Gully. "You cram 1,200 into the gym, with 1,000 of them students who are loud and crazy, and nothing comes close to matching this game, not Arco or Cosumnes River College, where we've played in the section playoffs.
"It's the only time I use five colored flashcards to let the players know what defense to play. Otherwise, they can't hear me because it's so loud."
The noise didn't bother the Falcons. They walloped the then-No. 5 Troubadours 89-50.
Freshman Dominque McNeely scored 18 points, sophomore Kira McKechnie 16, senior Niel Valmores 15 and junior Alicia Gonzalez 14.
Christian Brothers' record is a misleading 9-6.
The Falcons have lost to current No. 2 Oak Ridge, No. 3 Kennedy and No. 6 Nevada Union. They also have lost to NorCalPreps.com's Northern California No. 2 St. Mary's of Stockton, No. 8 Miramonte of Orinda and No. 17 Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco.
Five of those losses were played without Valmores, the Falcons' heart-and-soul point guard who missed seven games with a severe concussion.
"She makes everyone on our team better," Gully said.
That includes fellow backcourt mate and four-year starter Ana Burch, the returning Capital Valley Conference MVP, who led the team in scoring (16.1 points) and rebounding (8.2) last season.
"They've played together since the sixth grade, so those two girls read each other's minds," Gully said. "They play so well together."
Gully has a nice mix of experience and youth five freshmen contribute and may have his best team since his first season in 2007-08, when the Brittany Woodard-led Falcons went 27-5 and won the D-IV section title.
Woodward went on to play at Nevada and Cal Poly.
Winning league or section championships or winning 123 games in six seasons is not as important to Gully as the "privilege" of mentoring student-athletes.
It's all pretty heady stuff for a retired police K-9 handler who got involved in coaching when his sixth-grade daughter, Alexis, came home from school one day and said there might not be a girls basketball team because they didn't have a coach.
"I had never coached basketball before," Gully said. "But it's been 11 years now (eight total at CBS), and it's still a real fun job."
Cougars keep pace With senior Lynette Johnson making key plays late and scoring a game-high 20 points, No. 3 Kennedy held off No. 7 McClatchy 51-43 in a Metro Conference game Monday night in Greenhaven.
McClatchy, which trailed Kennedy 41-24 entering the final quarter, suffered its first loss of the season following 13 wins.
The win keeps Kennedy in a tie for first place in the Metro with top-ranked Sacramento. Kennedy plays at Valley tonight, then hosts No. 5 Florin on Friday.
Leading the charge Antelope's Tyler Ellis is the area leader in scoring (20 points per game) and rebounding (16.8).
Other area leaders, based on Maxpreps.com stats after 10 or more games: Megan Roberson, Del Campo, 7.4 blocks; Irene Colaivalu, Rosemont, 6.4 assists; Erika Bean, Bradshaw Christian, 6.3 steals.
The Bee's Bill Paterson breaks down this week's girls top area basketball teams.
THE BEE'S TOP 20
Records through Monday;
|2. Oak Ridge||11-2||2|
|4. Pleasant Grove||10-3||4|
|6. Nevada Union||12-3||7|
|8. Bradshaw Christian||12-2||9|
|9. Christian Brothers||9-6||10|
|10. St. Francis||7-5||5|
|11. Del Oro||9-6||11|
|13. Monterey Trail||11-6||12|
|14. Rio Americano||14-3||14|
|15. Bear River||15-1||15|
|18. West Campus||9-8||19|
|19. River City||8-8||20|