It's one thing to play in a rabid environment in El Dorado against a 28-2 basketball team that was unbeaten at home and in the midst of its greatest season.
But to win 66-58 with three players on the court against a much higher seed?
That's what happened to No. 11 Bradshaw Christian High School on Saturday night down the stretch against No. 3 Union Mine in a CIF Northern California Division IV quarterfinal girls contest as a small roster got much smaller as two players fouled out with two minutes remaining.
Bradshaw Christian coach Mike Ruble has seen a lot in his basketball travels, but nothing quite like this. The Pride held on against the Diamondbacks and iced it with two dramatic 3-pointers by Jordan Patterson Reid. The 6-foot-7 coach joked that his gritty young team can play a pretty mean three-man zone, too.
Anaya Mejia, a 5-foot-9 sophomore guard, scored 38 points for the Pride, who have won seven Sac-Joaquin Section banners under Ruble and seek their first NorCal title. Cookie Marques, a 5-8 junior guard, had 16 before fouling out.
Bradshaw Christian has just six players in uniform, partly because it is a small campus and partly from injuries.
"That was a crazy finish," Ruble said. "We have a fearless five, and then it was down to three. I told the girls after the game that I was so proud of them that if I talk about it, I'll probably cry. To see them battle, to see them do the things on the floor that we preach, and to see it all come together ... wow. It's sports. They finally got it."
What Bradshaw Christian, located near Sheldon High in South Sacramento, gained is another game. The Pride (21-12) on Tuesday will play at second-seeded Notre Dame of Belmont for a shot at the NorCal championship March 17.
Ruble said this was his proudest moment since helping start the athletic department at Bradshaw Christian 16 years ago. He won section titles with the boys and girls teams on the same exhaustive day in the past, and he has sent girls players to Division I college programs via scholarship.
Bradshaw Christian expects to make another run next season as the roster includes just one senior in guard Evon Bince. Other players are Jasalyn Brown, Lani Fall and Leida Mangang, the team's tallest player at 5-10 and also the most tender.
The junior wrenched her back during warmups before a section playoff game last month to Christian Brothers, which won 65-55, en route to the section title (CB beat Dublin 43-38 in a NorCal D-III game on Saturday).
"We don't have any bigs, but we play hard," Ruble said. "Mejia has to be one of the best sophomores in the country. She can do it all."
Mejia averages 19.9 points, Marques 15.4, Brown 9.9, Patterson-Reid 8.9 and Bince 6.6.