A team that started the high school basketball season 1-10, marred by injuries, became a bundle of smiles and giddy laughter, celebrating its latest win with cartons of chocolate milk.
With obstacles at every turn, Christian Brothers defeated Patterson 62-49 to take the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III girls championship Saturday afternoon at Pacific.
The run was improbable. The Falcons entered the playoffs as the No. 9 seed. They hosted no playoff games. They upset No. 1 Rio Linda 56-51 in the quarterfinal round, and in the title game, the Falcons overpowered Patterson with a 17-0 run in the second half that broke a 35-35 tie, giving the program its third banner since 2008 under coach Ron Gully.
“We peaked at the right time,” said Gully, in his 11th season.
Christian Brothers still owns a sub-.500 record at 14-17, but surely that’s of no concern to Gully, who credited the team’s tough preseason schedule and overall team resolve as good playoff preparation.
“This is the first of great things to come,” Gully said. “I believe this year, don’t look past us in NorCal (playoffs).
Brianna Juniel led all scorers with 24 points, and AnnaClare Nelson scored 10 and pulled in 10 rebounds. Nine players scored and 11 played. One who did not play was standout senior forward Kalani Mark, sidelined with a torn MCL.
“It was hard to watch (from the bench),” said Mark, who still was in uniform to feel like a part of the team. “But I was really proud and really happy how everyone came together and fought back.
Gully said he adjusted his team’s offense over the course of the season, switching from a dribble-drive plan to read-and-react, before going back to dribble-drive. The adjustments paid off, and the Falcons blocked seven shots and tipped many Patterson passes. And chemistry was evident as the Falcons celebrated postgame, applauding themselves, each other and Gully between sips of chocolate milk, a sponsor of these championships.
“I think what really pushed us to make it through and be here is that family we’ve created,” Juniel said.
This championship represents the school’s fifth this academic year, joining boys cross country, boys water polo, girls golf and girls lacrosse.