The Rosary and Mater Dei girls’ basketball teams travelled north to the state championships the last weekend in March, exited the bus in Sacramento, stepped on the floor one day apart at Golden 1 Center and dominated their opponents the first three quarters.
That’s when their experiences veered in opposite directions.
Rosary played one of its best games of the season from start to finish in winning the CIF State Division III final, 62-45, against Campolindo of Moraga on March 24, the first state championship in program history.
The following day, Mater Dei appeared on its way to winning a fifth state title in girls’ basketball, but couldn’t maintain a 17-point early in the fourth quarter of the Division II title game and lost, 64-61, to Vanden of Fairfield.
“I’ve never seen a year like this,” said Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan. “I’d say six of our losses were like this. We’d have a lead, we’d give it up and let the other team back in the game. The other team would make a big 3 and, boom, heartbreak.”
The Royals had never experienced a season like this either.
Rosary finished third in the Trinity League after losing both games to Mater Dei and Orange Lutheran, but had a solid nucleus with 6-3 junior center Rebekah Obinma, four-year starting guard Alli Iannone and talented freshman guard Kate Goostrey.
“I thought we could do some special things,” said Rosary coach Richard Yoon, in his 22nd season with the Royals. “We just had to pull together.”
The Royals twice won by one point in overtime on their road to CIF-SS Division 3-A title, including a 52-51 victory against Camarillo in the championship game.
Rosary then picked up momentum during the state playoffs, winning its first four games by 16 points or more before taking on Campolindo, led by 6-foot junior forward Haley Van Dyke, who was coming off a NorCal title-game record 46 points against Saint Mary’s of Albany.
Obinma took on the task of guarding Van Dyke, who finished with 22 points and 25 rebounds, but shot 9-of-37 from the field.
“We knew that Van Dyke was the player we needed to stop,” Yoon said. “Just looking at her last game, we knew we had our hands full, but Becky did a great job being a presence in the middle, funneling everybody to her.”
Obinma provided a lot more than defense, finishing with a rare triple-double of 12 points, 17 rebounds and 10 blocked shots.
Goostrey, whose layup at the overtime buzzer against Twentynine Palms in a section quarterfinal kept Rosary’s season alive a month earlier, made a Division 3 state record six 3-pointers and finished with a season-high 25 points. The Royals shot 9-for-20 overall from 3-point distance, a tremendous feat inside such a spacious arena.
“We kept trying different ways to adjust,” said Campolindo coach Art Thoms said. “We were trying to protect the middle, trying to protect them from driving. We changed defenses, I think, four times to try to make some adjustments. They just did a fantastic job — 9-for-20 is pretty good.”
What’s even better is Goostrey and Obinma are eligible to return next season.
“I’m so proud of our kids,” Yoon said. “They did the hard work. I can’t say enough about them.”