In a game that was much closer than the final score, the highly touted San Ramon Valley High girls basketball team got all it could handle from host Vintage as it won a CIF North Coast Section Division 1 playoff opener, 57-41, on Tuesday night.
The Wolves came in seeded third, but after an entertaining first quarter, it was the 14th-seeded Crushers that had a 13-8 lead.
“We deserve some respect after that game. It sure didn’t look like a 14th-versus-third-seed game to me,” said Crushers head coach Joe Donohoe. “All credit goes to San Ramon. They played a great game. You could tell they’re year-round basketball players.”
The talented Wolves came in averaging a gaudy 76 points per game, but were held nearly 20 points below that average by the feisty Crushers.
“We proved we could play with them,” Donohoe said. “These kids love each other and I love them, so it was a very emotional night for me.”
Donohoe admitted he was mostly upset that the ride was over for a team that accomplished something no other Vintage girls basketball team had – back-to-back titles in two different leagues.
“I’m sad. I thought we had a shot here tonight,” he said.
The Crushers played the Wolves nearly even for three out of four quarters. It was the decisive second quarter, when San Ramon scored the first 10 points and went on to outscore Vintage 20-6 for a 27-19 halftime lead, that ultimately made the difference.
As was often the case for the Crushers, who finished 19-7 overall, it was Alyssa Andrews who led the way. The senior finished with 17 points and seven rebounds despite missing five minutes of the third quarter after spraining an ankle.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better last game,” Andrews said through tears afterward. “We left everything we had on the court.”
Right behind Andrews was senior Nicole Gleeson, who once again showed she’s one of the fastest girls basketball players around. She scored 14 points, mostly on fast-break layups, and added seven rebounds.
“I think they came in thinking we weren’t going to play them that close, being a 14 seed,” Gleeson said. “But we showed them that we probably deserved a higher seed and proved we’re a good basketball team.”
Vintage began the game with its aggressive 1-2-2 defense and the Wolves seemed to be off their usual high-scoring game, putting up only eight points in the first quarter. After San Ramon Valley opened the scoring, Gleeson scored four straight points and Andrews scored the next five helping the locals to race out to a quick 10-4 lead.
To the Wolves’ credit, they gathered themselves between quarters and reeled off 10 straight points, and had an 18-13 lead just three minutes into the second quarter. Vintage center Kate Ilsley stopped the onslaught momentarily with a rebound and putback. But the Wolves kept the pressure on, and had turned a five-point deficit into an eight-point lead by halftime.
Donohoe had said his team’s plan was to limit the Wolves’ possessions as best it could, and Vintage’s 29-19 rebounding advantage meant most trips down the court resulted in only one shot for San Ramon Valley.
The Crushers began the third quarter in promising fashion, with Andrews leading the way. Morgan Groves sank an inside shot after a scramble for a loose ball, bringing the Crushers to within 29-25. But with 5:55 to play in the third, Gleeson picked up her third foul and Donohoe had no choice but to sit her down until the fourth.
On top of that, Andrews had to leave the game a minute later for an extended period after what appeared to be a hard foul. To add insult to injury, no foul was called. With Gleeson and Andrews out, San Ramon Valley ran its lead back to 11 by quarter’s end.
The Crushers didn’t give in, but the Wolves seemed to finally hit their stride in the fourth quarter to run out 16-point winners.
Ilsley had five points and four rebounds for Vintage, Eden Wood three points and three rebounds, and Groves two points and six rebounds. Maya Sapienza grabbed six rebounds. Dellaina Morse, Ellie Savage and Victoria Solorio each had one rebound.
The visitors were led by Natalie Pasco’s 11 points and Audrey Bayston’s 10.