Steve White was spent, but he had enough gusto to charge onto the floor amid the celebration mob scene Thursday night.
The longtime Oak Ridge High School girls basketball coach showed that his old legs still have some burst, and his gritty group showed it is competing at a championship level.
In a battle of The Bee’s top-ranked teams, No. 1 Oak Ridge had just enough legs and gas and stamina to prevail, holding off No. 2 McClatchy 40-33 in a fun and frenetic Sac-Joaquin Section Division I second-round playoff game in El Dorado Hills.
In winning their 26th consecutive game, the Trojans (27-1) dethroned the defending CIF State D-I champions and avenged a loss to McClatchy in last season’s Northern California title game.
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26 Consecutive victories by Oak Ridge
So, yes, it was warranted for Oak Ridge students and fans to flood the floor and hail their heroes. There were beet-red faces, some tears and a lot of relief. Right on down to the coach.
“Some tears of joy,” White said, smiling and dabbing moisture with his hands, “and some sweat beading up. It doesn’t get any better than this. Great crowd, great atmosphere.”
Oak Ridge is a tall team with a lot of skill, and White and his staff never doubt the effort. It’s always there. Players dive onto floor, crash hard for rebounds, and trap and defend with pride and purpose. And that’s exactly what McClatchy does, making for a heavyweight bout.
Oak Ridge led 13-11 after the first quarter, and McClatchy muscled ahead 21-18 at halftime.
Then Oak Ridge pulled away late with several players contributing. Siera Rassmussen’s two free throws gave the Trojans a 36-33 lead, Kassidy DeLapp hit a jumper to make it 38-33 with 57.6 seconds to go, Hailey McCoy made a free throw to make it 39-33, and team leader Briana Dulgar ended the scoring with 2.4 seconds left. Then the horn, then bedlam.
“Last year, McClatchy beat us twice, and this year, we really felt confident that we could win this,” said Dulgar, a senior guard considered by her teammates and coaches as the heart and soul of the program. “We just work so hard.”
DeLapp is a 6-foot-3 sophomore with skills and defensive tenacity. She scored all eight of her points in the second half, hitting jumpers, powering inside and dropping in free throws. McCoy, another impressive sophomore, had 10 points, Dulgar seven, Laura Soper six, Rasmussen five and Brittany Belanger four.
“I’m just so proud of our team,” an emotional DeLapp said, adding, “We did it! We did it! That’s a great team we beat. I’m proud of them, too. I’m so happy we had this great crowd, too.”
McClatchy players, coaches and athletic director Rob Feickert wished the Trojans well but were pained that their season ended so soon.
That two teams that came in with one combined section loss made for an unusual second-round showdown, Oak Ridge having earned the second seed and McClatchy a stunningly low seventh seed.
White said he would urge the section office to give McClatchy (23-6) an at-large NorCal bid.
“Find a way,” he said. “Not that I’d want to see them again.”
Kamryn Hall, a 5-10 freshman, led McClatchy with 10 points. Standout senior guards Kelsey and Kristi Wong competed to the end, and they embraced as their high school careers ended, a contrast to the celebration by Oak Ridge.