Sacramento girls fall to St. Mary's of Berkeley in NorCal Open Division

Published: Saturday, Mar. 9, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Saturday, Mar. 9, 2013 - 7:42 pm

BERKELEY – It seemed appropriate that Sacramento High and St. Mary's of Berkeley meet in the first round of the inaugural CIF Northern California Regional Open Division girls basketball playoffs Friday night.

No. 4 seed St. Mary's is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year and No. 5 seed Sacramento is 156 years old, though it's been an independent charter school since 2003.

Despite that, neither has much history with one another because they normally play in different divisions – Sacramento in D-II and St. Mary's in D-IV.

But this season, the CIF put what it viewed as the eight best teams in Northern California in the private school-dominated Open Division.

Sacramento's first foray didn't go well. The Dragons fell to the Panthers 43-31.

Mikayla Cowling and Gabby Green of St. Mary's (29-4) were too much for Sacramento.

The 6-foot Cowling scored 18 points and had 11 rebounds and five steals, and the 6-1 Green had 14 points, eight steals and eight rebounds as the Panthers moved on to Tuesday's semifinals against Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland, a 55-30 winner over Brookside Christian of Stockton.

Cowling has verbally committed to Cal, and Green is being recruited by every top program in the country.

Sacramento (27-5) struggled to get off shots from the perimeter against the two rangy guards and around the basket against 5-11 Taylor Berry and 5-10 Elexis Goodwin.

"They were very tall and long," senior Allie Green said. "That definitely affected us. They hit us with a lot of things defensively we didn't expect. We played hard, but we didn't do things right at certain times."

Ayanna Edwards, Sacramento's 6-4 junior post, had a strong game with nine rebounds, eight blocks and six points, and senior reserve Breanna Garrett made all three of her shots, joining Green, Edwards and Chaya Durr with six points each.

But the Dragons hit only 30 percent of their shots from the field and committed 20 turnovers.

Sacramento took an 11-8 early in the second quarter on a Garrett putback, but St. Mary's scored the last 14 points to lead 22-11 at the half.

Sacramento closed its deficit to nine twice in the fourth quarter but lost ball-hawking defender Zonyia Cormier to fouls with 5:18 to play.

"We're disappointed in the outcome but not in the kids," Sacramento coach Michele Massari said. "The state championship road starts today for next year."

Massari had mixed emotions about playing in the Open Division instead of D-II.

She felt it was too bad that despite making 10 consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section championship games and winning the last three, the reward was a road game against the state's No. 7-ranked team by Cal-Hi Sports.

"It's tough to see other schools in our area that we've beaten have first-round byes and home games," Massari said. "But we've put ourselves in this position by being one of the best teams in the state. So you can't fight that. It's historic and it's an honor, even if it made our life extremely more competitive. For teams in the Open Division, it's now like playing a state championship game every night."

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