Suzanne Baker can speak of the heartache of losing a championship game, the anguish especially heavy for seniors who don’t have another basketball season to lean back on.
So imagine the dismay for the longtime Capital Christian High School girls coach when the program’s lone starter from last season – Nicole Colbert – initially decided she wasn’t fit enough to compete, slowed by a blood condition that greatly fatigued her.
“We’ll find a way,” recalled Baker, ever the optimist.
Colbert found the strength to return, to leg out games, bolstered by the support of her teammates, and the Cougars finally celebrated a championship. Capital Christian overcame a height disadvantage and early big-building shooting jitters to beat Ripon Christian 52-43 on Friday night in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V final at Sleep Train Arena.
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The Cougars came in 0-3 in title games, including each of the past two seasons. This achievement was a long time coming, though it was also “the most unlikely team to do it,” Baker said.
Capital Christian started the season 0-6, set a modest goal of reducing turnovers and gladly welcomed Colbert, a skilled guard-forward, back into the fold in December. On the eve of the playoffs, Colbert told Baker that she wanted to compete for her old starting guard job, which she did.
That meant impressive freshman Elana Hall would come off the bench, and she embraced the return of Colbert, saying Friday night, “I was willing to do anything to help us, and I knew I had three more years of this. Nicole has this year.”
Said Colbert, “It feels really nice to be back, to help this team, to win. Not being able to play earlier this season hurt. I wanted to come back. I love these girls and said, ‘Let’s do this together.’ And through the grace of God, here we are.”
Colbert had 18 points and five rebounds for the Cougars (18-11), and Cierra McClain scored 12 points. Pamela Radach had 12 points for Ripon Christian (16-8), the winner of 11 section titles since 1987.
Vanden girls 83, Rio Linda 51 – The top-seeded Vikings (28-3) won their first D-III title after recent near misses, completing a 4-0 section sweep by an average of nearly 38 points. Rio Linda, seeded third, was in its first title game in 30 seasons.
Julia Blackshell-Fair scored 27 points for Vanden, and freshman Makaila Sanders had 16 for Rio Linda (25-6) with sophomore Brandy Huffhines contributing 14 for her coaching father, Jerry Huffhines. Both teams advance to the Northern California Regional tournament that starts next week.
Sacramento Country Day boys 104, Valley Christian 85 – B.J. Askew scored 26 points and fellow freshmen Cole Johnson, Jayce McCain and Rick Barros had 22, 22 and 21 points, respectively, as the Cavaliers beat the Lions of Roseville for the D-VI title late Thursday night at Galt with an all-divisions record point total.
It was the first such title for Country Day (26-4), which will advance to the NorCal playoffs.
Valley Christian Academy girls 59, Turlock Christian 52 – Lily Haggerty had 27 points and 15 rebounds to power the Lions to a D-VI title repeat over the same school on Thursday at Galt.
VCA (25-3) takes a 15-game winning streak into next week’s NorCal tournament.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.