By Erika Bradley
An raucous crowd swarmed onto the McClatchy High School campus Thursday evening and packed its smallish gym to maximum capacity for the highly anticipated Metro League girls basketball showdown between the host No. 2 Lions and the invading, top-ranked Sacramento Dragons.
What was expected to be a tight ball game was never close after the opening moments and rapidly developed into a landslide victory of epic proportion as McClatchy (17-1, 7-0) pounded Sacramento 54-29, handing the Dragons their first league loss in 97 games spanning five years. The loss also marked the Dragons’ first defeat versus local competition in three seasons.
The game will be broadcast by Access Sacramento Game of the Week tonight (Fri. Jan 24) at 7 p.m. Tune to Comcast/SureWest Cable Channel 17 or AT&T U-Verse Channel 99. Will James and Rick Stewart Call the action.
Destiny Lee paced the Lions with 17 points and 10 rebounds. The 6-4 junior, who has already received a scholarship offer from USF, neutralized the Dragons 6-4 Ayanna Edwards who, although registering 9 blocks, finished with just 6 points and 6 rebounds. McClatchy freshman guard Jordan Cruz added 16 points, while junior guard Lauren Nubla chipped in with 11 points.
McClatchy Head Coach, Jessica Kunisaki said, “we’ve worked on taking care of the ball and knowing how to break different traps. Kunisaki said, “our mindset is believing in ourselves”, adding that she was not worried about her younger players stepping up in this high-profile rivalry game. They looked at it as just another game, not wanting to focus on anything but playing well.” That was clearly an understatement.
Prior to the opening tip-off, Sacramento Head Coach, Michelle Massari, said, “we prepared by watching film, scouting the Lions, and practicing hard to be ready for this showdown. The mindset of our team is to be relentless, play smart, take advantage of McClatchy’s weaknesses, and not get too hyped up about the game.” It was equally clear that McClatchy showed not weaknesses.
The Lions played stellar defense, limiting the Dragons to just nine points in the opening quarter. On offense they passed well and moved the ball quickly up the floor with proficiency, easily breaking Sacramento’s press while taking a 25-15 advantage into the locker room at the intermission.
Beginning the second half Kunisaki urged her team to continue playing aggressive defense. “In the past we have been content and they’ve come right back at us. We just have to play great defense.” The Lions did just that, leading 41-23 after three quarters and limiting the Dragons to single-digit scoring in every quarter and their lowest total output in decades. Sacramento (10-7, 6-1) was topped by Najah Queenland’s 10 points.
The rematch between these two long-time arch rivals, which should again draw a capacity crowd, is slated for February 18th in the regular-season finale at Sacramento.