It was a year of achievement, perseverance and milestones in high school sports. The year gave us upstart champions, lasting gestures of sportsmanship and athletes who battled adversity and bounced back.
With a roster matching its multicultural campus, the McClatchy girls basketball team made history, scoring one for public schools in a state in which private schools generally dominate championships. The Lions, coached by former McClatchy player Jessica Kunisaki, used grit, skill and composure at Cal’s Haas Pavilion in March to beat Serra of Gardena 65-61 in double overtime to win the CIF State Division I championship.
McClatchy became the first Sacramento City Unified School District school to win a girls state title in any sport and just the district’s second school to earn a state championship, joining the 1972 Sacramento boys track team.
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The Lions were led by forward Gigi Garcia. Her best friend was center Destiney Lee, and the supporting cast included guards Lauren Nubla and sisters Kelsey and Kristi Wong.
8 Del Oro’s winning streak in football that brought the Golden Eagles section, Northern California and state titles
Happy and healthy
While his Granite Bay baseball teammates were in the playoffs last spring, Scotty Henrichs was in the hospital, battling pneumonia-like symptoms caused by a rare infection.
The Grizzlies hung Henrichs’ jersey in the dugout for inspiration and as a reminder that life isn’t just about wins and losses.
Henrichs lost 40 pounds and had seven operations (including three major surgeries), but he recovered in time to play football as a senior last fall and received Sacramento Bee first-team All-Metro honors. And he’s now a key player for Granite Bay basketball.
Little town that could
In East Nicolaus, the success of the crops and the football team often shapes the mood of the close-knit region and its 280-student campus.
It was a banner year, topped by the Spartans winning the CIF State Division VI-AA championship. East Nicolaus beat Coronado – enrollment 1,200 – 16-6 to become the first Northern Section program to win a state title. East Nicolaus is small-town America, where the farmers wear boots, and the linemen do, too, even while lifting weights.
East Nicolaus is coached by Travis Barker, an alum who said, “It was my dream to play football here, then coach here. Dreams come true.”
Clavo in their hearts
The Grant football team continued to play well during a period of unspeakable grief, a credit to the leadership of longtime coach Mike Alberghini.
Alberghini and others frantically tried to save Jaulon “JJ” Clavo’s life after the senior defensive back was rushed back to campus by his teammates after he was shot in his car about a mile from campus, just hours before a playoff opener. Clavo died from the wound, but his memory lives on, partly because area schools and people throughout Sacramento continue to reach out to Clavo’s mother, Nicole, and the Pacers to show their support.
“That support,” Nicole said, “really keeps me going.”
Del Oro’s football team was 2-6 and headed nowhere, but then something remarkable happened.
The Golden Eagles got mad, including at each other, and took off, winning eight consecutive games, including six in the postseason to earn Sac-Joaquin Section, CIF Northern California Regional and CIF State titles. The Golden Eagles were feted with a parade in downtown Loomis.
280 Enrollment at East Nicolaus, which won the state VI-AA football championship
Lliberty Ranch boys basketball coach Josh Williams showed his character.
After popular player Ryan Stover died of a heart attack on the eve of the season, Williams made sure the senior’s No. 25 jersey always was draped over a sideline seat.
And after guard Zach Justice nearly quit as he battled Crohn’s disease, an intestinal/digestive disorder that can be so fatiguing it makes getting out of bed a chore, Williams started him at the beginning of each half, a reward for the senior’s efforts.
Farewell to Frizzi
Somewhere, Len Frizzi is the toast of the party, because if there was one thing the beloved decades-long public address voice and emcee for scores of prep events especially enjoyed, it was a festive gathering.
Frizzi, 87, died in September after a long illness.
“Len was the godfather of the section,” retired section Commissioner Pete Saco said. “He’s the most loved individual I’ve ever known. He just made people feel good.”