A small high school girls’ basketball team has been winning in big ways lately.
With more than half of the players on its roster listed at 5-foot-7 or shorter, West Campus is not going to intimidate anybody on paper. No players are listed taller than 5-10.
Still, the Warriors overcame their lack of height this season with quickness, depth and relentless defense to cruise to the Golden Empire League title, the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV crown and the Northern California Regional D-IV championship.
West Campus (29-4) has won 25 of its past 26 games with seven of its postseason victories coming by 26 points or more.
The Warriors have one final game, against Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga for the CIF State Division IV championship at 10 a.m. Saturday at Golden 1 Center. West Campus could become the second girls team from the Sacramento City Unified School District to win a state championship, joining the 2015 McClatchy Lions.
McClatchy, which beat West Campus 51-47 in the Warriors’ third game of the season, will play for its second D-I title on Friday against Windward of Los Angeles.
At the core of West Campus’ successful season is a tight-knit group of friends and family.
“It’s a loving atmosphere,” said senior forward Nadia Johnson.
“No drama,” Nadia’s sister, Nia, added.
Nadia and Nia, a junior, transferred to West Campus from Antelope High during the last academic year. Nadia called the new school “compact.”
“Everyone knows each other here,” Nia said.
The transition brought them to a school known for its academic rigors that has about half the student body of Antelope. Nadia said she took harder classes her junior year at Antelope to ease some of the stress of her senior year.
“For me, it’s been really hard, but I try to do some work in class and after school,” Nia said. “I’ll be late to practice sometimes, but I’ll be in the classroom with my teacher helping me.”
Both integral to the team’s balanced offensive attack, Nia averaged 10.3 points per game in the regular season and Nadia 9.1.
Playing home games in an intimate gym and sometimes holding practices in an even smaller auxiliary one, the Warriors hold close bonds with one another, knowing they need each other to overcome a lack of size in a sport that often specializes in it. Senior Alexandra Dent said she has been good friends with teammate Namiko Adams since middle school, and prior to their transfer, the Johnson sisters already knew a few girls on the team through summer-leagues, making the transition easy.
Faced with a different type of transition, freshman Gabby Rones called this season surreal. The 5-5 guard averaged 8.0 points per game in the regular season and welcomes tutoring from the team’s seniors.
“At first, I was kind of intimidated because everybody’s older than me and they probably know more, but as I started playing with them and getting to know the people, I started gaining confidence in myself in knowing how to play with them, and they’ve been real encouraging,” Rones said.
The bond extends to coach John Langston, who at times addresses his team with the cadence of a motivational speaker. After last Saturday’s 70-30 win over St. Joseph of Alameda in the NorCal title game, Langston praised the girls for allowing him to push them.
“We’re like sisters and Coach Langston’s like our dad, always getting on us, but always helping us,” Rones said.
Dent referred to the team’s environment as strict, one that requires discipline and hard work. The winning culture at West Campus has given the girls a chance to improve themselves.
“I set goals coming here,” Nia said. “I wanted to do more at this school and make history.”