The expectations for the McClatchy girls basketball team are high.
The top four scorers return from a 22-6 team that tied for third in the Metropolitan Conference before losing to Pleasant Grove in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoff opener.
McClatchy’s rotation features three juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen.
Junior forward Destiney Lee is averaging 13.7 points and 4.7 rebounds for the No. 3 Lions (2-1), who lost to state powerhouse St. Mary’s of Stockton in the Christian Brothers Tournament final on Saturday.
Coach Jessica Kunisaki, a former All-Metro player for McClatchy, is in her third season after replacing Harvey Tahara, a section Hall of Fame coach. Kunisaki said her team is still evolving.
“I don’t expect to make the rookie mistakes that we made last year,” Kunisaki said. “We should be a lot better just because they had that year.”
The Lions have received strong post play from Lee and sophomore Gigi Garcia, both 6-foot-2. Garcia, averaging 9.7 points, may get her toughness from her father, former Grant and Sacramento State quarterback Aaron Garcia, who at 42 played for the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League last spring.
Freshmen Jordan Cruz, Sara Shimizu and Ka’Maree Donald also are key players. Cruz led McClatchy with 19 points, including three 3-pointers, in a 48-30 victory over Sheldon on Thursday.
“Adding Jordan, Sara and Ka’Maree was an easy fit,” Kunisaki said.
The Lions will meet top-ranked Sacramento, No. 6 Kennedy and No. 11 Florin twice each in the Metro this season.
McClatchy won the Division I section title in 2007 and advanced to the NorCal final, in which it lost to Berkeley.
Kunisaki said McClatchy has the talent to make a similar run.
“I think their potential is endless right now,” Kunisaki said. “It’s hard to say how well we are going to do; I just want them to be the best they can be.”
Stepping up – Sacramento has found a solid replacement for 2013 All-Metro guard Chaya Durr, who is out for the season with a knee injury, in sophomore guard Aliceah Hernandez.
“She’s a huge piece,” coach Michele Massari said. “She’s a scorer and a leader. She might be our best leader right now.”
That’s saying a lot for a team that starts four seniors.
• Sacramento’s Durr (UC Santa Barbara), Ayanna Edwards (Arizona State), Zonyia Cormier (Cal Poly), Simone Sheppard (UNLV) and Najah Queenland (Pacific) – last month signed Division I letters of intent to play basketball on scholarship. The seniors will be recognized today by Mayor Kevin Johnson, a Sac High alum, during the City Council’s open session.
Moving up – Del Oro moved up seven spots to No. 7 in The Bee’s rankings this week after a 29-point, 14-rebound performance from junior forward Lauren Heyn in a season-opening 73-53 win over Excel Academy of Stockton last week.