For every Sacramento High, Oak Ridge and Kennedy championship-caliber girls basketball programs year after year there are others struggling to put a viable team on the court.
With just six varsity players, Natomas last week consolidated its varsity and junior varsity programs into one.
Hiram Johnson, which has won only one game in five years, forfeited Friday's Metro Conference contest against McClatchy, two days after throwing in the towel at halftime against top-ranked Sacramento because of injury and illness. The Warriors were trailing 55-1.
Once a school develops a reputation as being an athletic graveyard, it's hard to climb out of the hole, especially with a new, liberalized CIF transfer policy.
Florin coach Larry Price understands the dilemma of programs such as Natomas and Hiram Johnson. He was in a similar position his first two years at the south Sacramento school.
He took over a team that was 15-62 the previous three seasons. In Price's first two years, Florin went 3-45.
Today, the Panthers are a top-10 team, ranked No. 5 with an 11-4 record this season (70-30 the past four) and appear playoff-bound for a third consecutive season.
Price, an off-campus coach who works as a parole agent, credits four-year players Deja Conger and Daijah Joe-Smith for helping to start the school's reversal of fortunes.
"I remember Deja Conger coming over to our games as an eighth-grader while still at Rutter Middle School," Price said. "She tells me she wants to play for us and make a difference, even though she sees us losing like we were at the time. Now that's character."
Since then, several other talented players have followed, including junior forward/post Dalayna Sampton, a 4.5 grade-point-average student who Price says is getting looks from Ivy League schools, and underclass talents Rhianna Jackson, a sophomore, and freshman Jikara Sellers.
"The great thing is they're good students," Price said. "They make sure each other are on task in the classroom. I feel fortunate that I'm at Florin."
But it's still a tightrope walk.
Price only has nine players on his varsity squad. Two players expected to contribute this season transferred to other schools. The JV ranks are thin.
Price isn't a fan of the CIF's new transfer rule in which a student can move to another school without a change of address and play after sitting out the first 30 days of the season.
"That doesn't help a program like ours," Price said. "I think we're giving (students) the wrong message."
Fabulous Falcon A player to watch this season is Christian Brothers sophomore Kira McKechnie.
A softball player, the 6-foot McKechnie initially didn't plan to play high school basketball as a freshman last season.
But on the final day of tryouts, CBS coach Ron Gully persuaded her to give the sport a chance.
Now she's often a double-figure scorer for the No. 9 Falcons. She had an eye-opening 30 points in the Falcons' 88-71 loss to state power St. Mary's of Stockton on Dec. 1. She's averaging a team-high 13.4 points per game.
"She's a phenomenal athlete, but we only have her during the season because of her commitment to softball," Gully said. "She could be a next-level player in basketball if she could get in the gym a little bit more."
McKechnie is the niece of former CBS three-sport standout Kevin McKechnie.
Dragons face test Top-ranked Sacramento will be put to the test this week.
The Dragons will play at No. 3 Kennedy on Thursday in a Metro Conference game before taking part in a two-day Martin Luther King Jr. showcase at St. Mary's in Stockton with a 1 p.m. game Saturday against Hanford. Sac will play Archbishop Mitty of San Jose at 6 p.m. Monday.
Mitty won the CIF Division II state title and Hanford reached the CIF Southern California Regional quarterfinals last season.
Also playing in the St. Mary's showcase are No. 4 Pleasant Grove, No. 5 Florin, No. 9 Christian Brothers and No. 13 St. Francis.