Mike Ruble isn’t the easiest guy to play for.
He barks, he fumes, he stomps, he demands all-out effort in practice and games. Shoot, even getting on and off the team bus.
But the Bradshaw Christian High School girls basketball coach has been exposed by the players who compete for him. Inside that gruff, lanky 6-foot-7 exterior there’s a teddy bear, his players insist.
On Saturday afternoon at Sleep Train Arena, Ruble led the sing-song postgame cheer as the Pride held off top-seeded Brookside Christian of Stockton 74-62 to claim the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship.
What’s not to celebrate? Bradshaw Christian moved to 7-0 in title games in the NBA venue with a championship three-peat. All of the titles have come since 2008, and the Pride is 28-3 lifetime in the section playoffs, all under the watchful iron fist of Ruble, who also serves as a teacher, administrator and the boys basketball coach at the south Sacramento school that is big on academics and athletics.
“It’s not easy playing for me,” Ruble said, smiling. “It’s hard. There are times the girls don’t like me. But this all feels good, winning. Winning is one thing, but how to win, that matters. Character and being smart players.”
Ruble pointed out his leading players, senior guard Erika Bean and senior forward Jordyn Bell, as examples of scholar-athlete excellence. As they have over three varsity seasons together, Bean and Bell led by example and in the box score, with hearty contributions on both ends of the floor.
Bean, headed to Utah on scholarship, had 19 points, five rebounds and five assists. Bell, off to UNLV, powered inside for 16 points and 14 rebounds. Their efforts offset a terrific showing by Brookside Christian junior guard Aarion McDonald, a Washington Huskies scholarship commit. She had 38 points and 16 rebounds.
“With Erika and Jordyn, we have two of the best captains and leaders we’ve ever had here, high character on and off the court, and great players,” Ruble said.
Bean and Bell are not merely a 1-2 act. The Pride has balance as Jolene Delaney had 11 points and seven rebounds, Ramia Griffin 10 and five and Arionna Butts eight and five.
Now it’s on to the Northern California Regional playoffs, which start this week.
“We don’t stop here,” Bean said. “We want more.”
Said Bell, “We’ve all bought in. It’d be great to finish with a state championship.”
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.