Players have moved on – the coaches, too. What remains are the trophies and the banners hanging from the gym walls, and the memories.
The Sacramento area has produced 16 CIF State basketball champions. Do we hear 18?
The West Campus girls play for the Division III title on Friday afternoon against Sunny Hills of Fullerton a year after winning CIF D-IV honors. On Saturday, the Sheldon boys take on CalHi Sports state No. 1 Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth for Open Division honors.
Here's a closer look at the previous winners since the state finals format was created in 1982:
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Pioneering Falcons, 1983, '84 – Coach John Alba's sheer will helped drive small-school Colfax to a slice of the big time. Behind front-court stars Lydia Kranz and Sue Mead, Colfax beat Marshall of Pasadena 63-52 in the first D-III title game in 1983 and the Falcons repeated with those same players in 1984, downing Woodlake 65-43 to cap a 26-2 season.
Mead had 21 points and 13 rebounds and Kranz 16 and 15 in what would be Alba's last game as coach. He suffered from stress seizures, his body folding up, his fingers and toes curled under, his face horribly distorted. Alba stepped down due to game-induced anxiety and stress at the urging of doctors. He was 31.
No Harms, no fouls, 1985 – After losing in the 1985 Sac-Joaquin Section semifinals to Bret Harte, Folsom gained new life as an at-large NorCal entry, a rarity that has become the norm. Coach Stan Harms told his boys, "We're a team of destiny. We'll win." The Bulldogs won won the D-III title over Avenal 68-57 as Mike Doyle dominated inside with 12 points and 19 rebounds and Ed Pelzman had a career-best 19 points to finish the season 34-2.
Green with envy, 1988, '89 – The Grant girls were led by twin guards Tesia and Tina Green. When Tesia went down with an ankle injury in the 1988 D-II finals against Palo Verdes, Tina took it personally. (She said later, "I mean, they tried to hurt my sister!") Tina scored 36 points in the 52-49 victory as Grant beat a Palos Verdes team that featured the world's tallest female twins – 6-foot-4 pillars Heidi and Heather Burge – according to Guinness World Records.
In 1989, Grant went 32-3 and repeated, beating Katella of Anaheim 59-43 as the Green sisters led the charge. Retiring coach Connie Zuercher endured searing pressure from Grant community members that a white woman should not be coaching a team of black players, never mind that those players adored their coach in what was a mutual good vibe. Said Zuercher then, "It's such a beautiful way to end it."
Name game, 1990 – The Placer girls embrace their mascot of "Hillgals" and they took it personally when players from national No. 2 Brea Olinda snickered during warmups for the D-III title game: "What's a Hillgal?" Answer? A champion. Behind 22 points and 15 rebounds from Christa Gannon and 19 and seven from Caree Anderson, Placer won 54-43, snapping a 55-game winning streak. Placer coach Jim Mallery doubled as a private investigator and wore a green sports coat. His team won two games in 1988.
Troubadour Trouble, 1993 – Dave Parsh learned how to defend on the fly when trying to check blur-quick Kevin Johnson, he of eventual NBA fame, in practice as Sacramento High teammates in 1982. In his first season coaching the St. Francis girls 11 years later, Parsh delighted in the Troubadours' 50-43 win over Costa Mesa for the D-III title behind seniors Mindy Bagatelos, Camille Gutierrez and Andee Whalen. "Regardless of gender, basketball is basketball, and the hustling, smart teams usually win," Parsh said then.
Practice makes perfect, 1994 – Under demanding coach Bill Baxter, the El Camino girls practiced hard and competed even harder on game day. The Eagles rolled state-ranked No. 1 Woodbridge of Irvine 71-38 for the D-II title in a battle of unbeatens as Kristin Niemann scored 21 and Emily Hart had 13 points, 15 rebounds and six blocked shots. El Camino's 36-0 record remains the best in regional history, girls or boys. El Camino parents were so giddy they vowed to sprint through Arden Fair mall in school-color green skivvies before someone reminded them people get detained for such actions.
Hibbs' heroes, 1994, 2003 – The region's only boys program to win two state championships did so under the direction of one coach, Drew Hibbs. In 1994, Foothill ended a 28-game winning streak for Pacific of Garden Grove, 81-61, in D-III behind Rick Gonzalez, Alvin Houston and Mike Pelton. In 2003, the Mustangs beat Harvard-Westlake 66-62 in the D-III final behind Sam Kirby and Chris Walker. Foothill went 30-5 in 1994 and 33-2 in 2003. "Winning," Hibbs said in 2003, "just becomes so fun and rewarding."
Small-town wonders, 2004 – Forest Lake Christian of Auburn scored one for regional small schools, beating Mission Prep of San Luis Obispo 65-47. Lauren Jackson, normally an inside scorer, hit three 3-pointers and had 15 points for the Falcons (31-4).
Trojans vs. Goliath, 2005 – Amid a dominating football run, the Oak Ridge boys basketball team rose to prominence with a 60-44 rout of national power Mater Dei of Santa Ana in D-II behind leaders Ryan Anderson, now in the NBA, Andrew Browning and Ryan Moya. For Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight, he of the 1,115-107 career record, the loss lingers. "I still haven't gotten over it," he said last season. Oak Ridge went 32-4.
Trojans uprising, 2010 – Underdogs was an understatement in sizing up the pesky Oak Ridge girls against the nationally ranked No. 2 Long Beach Poly that sought a record-breaking fifth consecutive state title. Oak Ridge (32-3) won 55-42 in D-I behind Stanford-bound star Sara James, who had 26 points against a team that had seven D-I college commits. Cal-Hi Sports Editor Mark Tennis called it "the greatest upset in the history of girls basketball in this state." Said Oak Ridge coach Steve White, "We were magical."
Eagles soar, 2013 – These boys overcame three frustrating losses to their chief rival Sheldon and then celebrated by winning the final game. Pleasant Grove lost the Delta League and the section titles to Sheldon, which was placed in the first NorCal Open tournament and won it. Pleasant Grove (28-6) kept grinding and won the D-I boys state title, rolling Santa Monica 73-57 behind senior stars Matt Hayes, Cole Nordquist, Matt Smrekar and Malik Thames and super sophomore and eventual first-round NBA draft pick Marquese Chriss. Said coach John DePonte, "Special teams never quit."
Lions roar, 2015 – It took two overtimes but McClatchy became the first girls team in the Sacramento Unified School District to win a state crown for any sport, downing Serra of Gardena 65-61. Gigi Garcia and Destiney Lee led the way, and leading the celebration was coach Jessica Kunisaki, a McClatchy graduate who played in the program. "I don't know if anyone imagined this," she said.
Scholars and ballers, 2017 – West Campus showed that not only is it an academic powerhouse, the girls can ball, too. The Warriors beat Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga 63-55 to win the D-IV championship behind guards Kiara Jefferson and Gabby Rones, both of whom lead the Warriors on Friday at Golden 1. Said coach John Langston a year ago, "We can't hide any more. We don't want to hide. We want everyone to know who we are. This is a hidden-jewel team."
CIF State Basketball Championships schedule
At Golden 1 Center
Friday, March 23
10 a.m. – Division IV girls, Rolling Hills Prep vs. Priory
Noon – Division IV boys, View Park vs. Stuart Hall
2 p.m. – Division III girls, West Campus vs. Sunny Hills
4 p.m. – Division II boys, Crossroads vs. Alameda
6 p.m. – Division I girls, Serra vs. Sacred Heart Cathedral
8 p.m. – Division I boys, Chino Hills vs. LasLomas
Saturday, March 24
10 a.m. – Division V girls, Sierra Pacific vs. Lowell
12 p.m. – Division V boys, Santa Clarita vs. Argonaut
2 p.m. – Division II girls, Redondo Union vs. Pleasant Valley
4 p.m. – Division III boys, Notre Dame (Riverside) vs. Pleasant Valley
6 p.m. – Open Division girls, Windward vs. Pinewood
8 p.m. – Open Division boys, Sierra Canyon vs. Sheldon