This season began with a thud for River City High School.
The fifth-ranked Raiders girls basketball team absorbed December losses to No. 3 Nevada Union and No. 13 Kennedy – by a combined 41 points – at the Christian Brothers Tournament.
“We were horrible at CBS,” River City coach Jamie King said. “Then we had to reassess ourselves as a team and a coaching staff. That was a wake-up call for us.”
The two-time defending Sierra Valley Conference champion Raiders responded by posting a 19-1 record since then and are riding a 12-game winning streak.
The last loss was to No. 4 Oak Ridge on Dec. 21. Two days later, the Raiders avenged their loss to Kennedy with a 52-49 victory at Oak Ridge’s Lady Trojan Toss-Up.
A factor in the Raiders’ surge has been the return of Carmen Garcia. The senior guard missed last season because of a knee injury after being called up from the junior varsity for the 2011-12 postseason.
Garcia leads River City scorers at 15.8 points per game, including a 23-point effort in a 69-48 win at No. 19 Cosumnes Oaks on Thursday.
“(Garcia) came back during the summer. We talked about what we need from her, and she’s really bought in,” King said. “She said (in January), ‘Coach, I found my love for the game again.’ It’s been really nice having her back. She’s so talented.”
With the graduation of King’s daughter Katelin (now at Cal State Northridge), Garcia and senior Tori Torres have formed a powerful backcourt duo.
River City also has received productive play from junior Aliyah Brantley, a 6-foot-1 forwardaveraging 11.5 points and 8.3 rebounds.
“She’s a defensive stalwart for us,” King said. “She allows us to get out and push the ball.”
After advancing to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs in the past four seasons, the Raiders will move up to D-I this postseason.
“We build our program on playing hard,” King said. “We start with that and don’t go away from it. This year’s group has done a heck of a job of accepting their roles.”
Sibling rivalry – Placer’s Baylee Vanderdoes – the younger sister of Eddie Vanderdoes, a standout freshman defensive lineman at UCLA – is making a name for herself.
Baylee Vanderdoes had 32 points, 16 rebounds and eight blocks on Wednesday to lead Placer over then-No. 17 Colfax 51-50 in overtime.
The 6-1 sophomore leads Placer scorers (15.8) and is averaging 7.1 rebounds. Senior Elena Daniel averages 15.5 points and a team-high 10.0 rebounds.
Tied for second place, Placer will host No. 12 Bear River, the Pioneer Valley League leader, today. The Hillgals (12-9, 3-2) lost 52-32 to the Bruins in Lake of the Pines on Jan. 17.
Bear River (18-2, 5-0), which reached the D-IV section title game last season, is primed for another deep playoff run behind Kaitlyn Reina, Teryn Rath, Lauren Runte and Maddi Dunn.
Nonleague matchups – With just 17 days before the section playoffs, six of the top eight teams in this week’s rankings have marquee nonleague matchups.
No. 2 Sacramento (13-7) will host No. 5 River City on Saturday and will play at No. 3 Nevada Union (17-4) next Monday. The game against the Miners is a make-up of an early-December contest that was postponed because of weather conditions. Sacramento coach Michele Massari, a Nevada Union graduate, says she will make her first trip back to the Grass Valley gym since high school.
No. 4 Oak Ridge (17-4) will host No. 6 Del Oro (16-6) on Saturday, and No. 8 Christian Brothers (12-9) will play next Monday at McNair of Stockton (19-3).
Contact Trevor Horn at firstname.lastname@example.org.