Joe Davidson

Three reasons why West Campus basketball is closing in on two big CIF repeats

West Campus' Gabby Rones drives against Los Osos  during the Division IV state basketball championship game at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on March 25, 2017.
West Campus' Gabby Rones drives against Los Osos during the Division IV state basketball championship game at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on March 25, 2017. rbendon@sacbee.com

They attack in waves with a variety of skills, feeding off of each other as they feed the beast of winning.

Say hello to the trio that has the West Campus High School girls basketball team charging through another round of the CIF Northern California playoffs.

Gabby Rones is the poised ballhandler, Kiara Jefferson the relentless speed demon and Nia Johnson the fearless driver or shooter. There are no smiles on these faces in competition. When the games are over, it's as giddy a bunch as you'll find, reflective of a 3-0 showing in the NorCal Division III bracket.

Add the run they had through the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs and the Warriors of the Sacramento Unified School District are 7-0 in the postseason with an overall winning streak of 20. West Campus (27-7) will host Clovis (22-12) of Fresno on Saturday night at 6 p.m. for the NorCal trophy a year after winning NorCal and CIF State titles in Division IV.

The winner caps the season the following weekend in the CIF State finals at Golden 1 Center.

Warriors coach John Langston is firm yet fair, and he lets his guards do their thing, be it a creative pass or dazzling move down the lane. Langston doesn't want his players to feel controlled, to look his way for approval every time they bring the ball upcourt. Do your thing, he says.

"Players need freedom," Langston said. "They know if they do something they shouldn't do, I'll get on them. But if they do something within their scope, go for it."

Rones is a sophomore whose value goes beyond her 11.8 points per game. Jefferson has uncoachable quickness and burst. The UCLA-bound guard averages 14.2 points and flusters opponents with her ability to do a little bit of everything – rebounding, steals, passes, scoring.

Johnson is a senior scorer. Headed to Cal State Bakersfield, she leads West Campus at 16.4 points per game, and she had the best game of her season on Tuesday night. Johnson scored 29 in a 71-33 semifinal rout of Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton while also grabbing seven rebounds.

Jefferson had 22 points and five steals on Tuesday and Rones contributed 12 points, five rebounds and seven assists.

"We all have a role and do what we need to do," Jefferson said earlier this postseason.

Added Johnson, "We just play hard. We can all do something on the court."

And Rones said, "We play well together. We trust each other."

Langston called Rones "extremely tough."

"You can't read her. She reads and reacts so well. She has all the tools you'd need to play at a higher level," he said.

On Jefferson, Langston said: "She has a special gift a lot of girls just don't have: She can stop on the dime, immediately, or just keep going. Extremely fast and talented."

Johnson is "fearless almost to a fault" when she attacks the basket, he said.

"She will go under you, around, over you," Langston said. "Her tenacity is amazing."

The same could be said for the endurance of the entire team. The Warriors seem tireless, a credit to the work track specialist Hardy Slay puts the team through before each season.

"We prepare our team for the longevity of the season during the summer," Langston said. "We get all the muscles moving – big muscles, little muscles. This time of year, we're actually peaking.

"Don't get me wrong, My girls are tired, but not as tired as everyone else."

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