From a 1-10 start to myriad injuries and higher-seeded opponents at every turn, the most improbable championship of the weekend belonged to a team that expected to be here.
Relying on resolve, depth and suffocating defense, ninth-seeded Christian Brothers High School beat third-seeded Patterson 62-49 for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III girls championship Saturday at Pacific.
The Falcons (14-17) need three more wins to hit .500, and at this rate, who would dare underestimate coach Ron Gully’s plucky group?
Christian Brothers pulled away with a 17-0 second-half run and gave Gully his third section title in his nine seasons.
“We’re road warriors,” Gully said of his team, which has hosted no playoff games, including toppling top-seeded Rio Linda 56-51 in the quarterfinals. “We got off to that slow start and there was some finger-pointing from the stands. We had a really tough schedule early. But this is a life lesson, way beyond basketball. You’re not going to get every job you apply for. Not every relationship will work out.
“But you persevere, and I’m so proud of this team.”
The Falcons prevailed despite the absence of one of their top players, Kalani Mark, who tore an MCL in the semifinals against Kimball, an injury so bad it knocked a screw loose from a previous knee injury.
Brianna Juniel had 24 points and nine rebounds Saturday, and AnnaClare Nelson had 10 points and 10 rebounds as nine Falcons scored and 11 played.
The Tigers (23-5) had a 17-game winning streak halted.
Division II girls: Vanden 56, Sacramento 47 – The teams played at an exhaustive, frenetic pace: up and down, crashing the boards and bodies falling to the floor.
This style appeals greatly to fans but can wear out a team.
Vanden was fresher, if just barely, down the stretch, and Sacramento sputtered when it couldn’t afford to. The top-seeded Vikings, one of the state’s hottest teams, beat the third-seeded Dragons Friday night to repeat as Sac-Joaquin Section D-II champions.
Vanden outscored Sacramento 17-5 in the fourth quarter to win its 19th consecutive game and third successive section title (the Vikings were D-III champions in 2015).
All section semifinalists and finalists advance to the CIF Northern California tournament, which begins Wednesday. Vanden likely will be in the prestigious Open Division again. Sacramento probably will earn a home game in D-II.
Dragons coach Michele Massari reminded her team the season still has legs, even if her girls largely could not leg it against Vanden.
19 Consecutive wins by Vanden’s girls basketball team
Myli Martinez scored 14 points and Deidra Huff 12 to lead Vanden (26-5). Andriana Avent scored 15 and Sasha Brown had 10 points and 15 rebounds for Sacramento (22-9), which reached a section final for the 11th time in 12 years.
Division V girls: Argonaut 70, Capital Christian 60 – Cabri Makenna led four Argonaut players in double figures with 16 points, and the top-seeded Mustangs (26-4) exacted revenge to win the program’s first section championship, knocking off the two-time defending champion Cougars (21-9).
Lauryn Davis and Macie Arevalo scored 15 points each, and Madison Hoyt had 13 points and 11 rebounds for Argonaut, which lost to Capital Christian in the semifinals two years ago and in the final last season.
The Mustangs dedicated the victory to their inspiring leader, Mark Giannini, the team’s coach since 2000. He has multiple sclerosis and has been in a wheelchair for three years.
Giannini was emotional in victory, thanking his players for their efforts as they thanked him for his leadership.
“We love him so much,” Davis said. “He means everything to us. He’s so real, and to win the first championship in school history is special.”
Division VI girls: Valley Christian 56, Victory Christian 40 – Angelina Contreras scored 29 points, including six 3-pointers, and the top-seeded Lions of Roseville won their third D-VI championship in four years under coach Kim Contreras, Angelina’s mother.
Valley Christian (24-5) won its 17th consecutive game. Cloe Gunter had 12 points and 14 rebounds, and Marissa Flood had 10 points for the Lions.
Chi Chi Ugorji had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the second-seeded Vikings (19-8).
Division VI boys: Sacramento Adventist 41, Sacramento Waldorf 40 – Bryce Beaman made a go-ahead jumper with 1:45 left for the game’s final points, and the second-seeded Capitals held on to win the first section championship in the school’s 59-year history.
Junior floor leader Cyrus Jones had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Bryson Collins had 15 rebounds for Sacramento Adventist (24-6), guided by a longtime area lawyer who said he still gets his kicks in coaching. Scott Tedmon was so excited after the win that he raced across the floor to celebrate with a large rooting section called “The Red C.”
17 Consecutive wins by Valley Christian’s girls basketball team
“We’re a legit small school, not just some tiny school tucked away on Winding Way in Carmichael,” Tedmon said. “We play as a collective group. I’m so impressed with our guys.”
The Capitals are young, with one senior starter, and Jones smoothly and tirelessly led his team back against the top-seeded Waves, in the playoffs for the 27th time in coach Dean Stark’s 30 seasons. Gabe Scott scored 14 for Sacramento Waldorf.
“I’ve known Dean for 30 years and he’s a class act, a great coach and person, and it’s hard to beat a good team like that,” Tedmon said.
Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD. The Bee’s Michael McGough contributed to this report.