ELK GROVE — The questions on Tuesday night’s exam were tough …
* Would the Davis High girls basketball team be able to adjust to Monterey Trail’s slash-and-burn offense?
* Could the two freshmen and three sophomores on whom the Lady Blue Devils rely rise to their most prominent challenge?
* Would Ashleigh Vandenbrink’s gimpy ankle affect her game?
* How would DHS handle the Mustangs’ usually boisterous home crowd?
“I say test completed and we get an A-plus,” Devil girls basketball coach Karen Foster told The Enterprise after the locals went into enemy territory and emerged with a 60-50 victory — and probably a Delta Valley Conference title.
* After allowing 71 points in a 10-point loss to The Trail last month, a rotating corps of Davis defenders kept Mustang guards Jasmine Redmon and Tiara Webb far off the basket.
* The five young Blue Devils — Emma Stenz, Caitlin Mazzoleni, Katie Grahn, Anna Belenis and Rachael Allison — played integral parts as DHS executed a nearly flawless second half.
* Vandenbrink was magical. Hitting her last seven shots, the senior swingman went 10-for-14, pulled down 12 rebounds and scored 26 points. What ankle?
* A disappointing crowd turnout of fewer than 300 was taken out of the game early when Davis jumped on top 9-2 and stayed in control the rest of the way.
“We prepared and played great defense,” Foster continued, realizing that a win over Franklin (11-12, 4-5) at DHS on Friday will give the seventh-ranked Devils (21-4) the DVC pennant and a lofty seeding in postseason. The worst that can happen now is a co-title with Monterey Trail (18-8, 7-2) should disaster strike on Senior Night.
“As long as we execute our offense, you can’t stop us. This was a nice team effort. Everyone was doing their part.”
Vandenbrink captured the game’s first rebound and fed Stenz, who was fouled. The sophomore center hit a free throw and Davis was on its way.
Senior Tori Powell added a bucket, following by six straight Vandenbrink points. When MT coach Louie Corpuz called his first timeout, the Blue Devils were asserting themselves before a crowd that had a collective blank stare.
Redmon, who scored 29 the last time the two schools met, had six first-quarter points to keep her team close. But Powell, Becca Hassid, Belenis, Grahn and Mazzoleni were taking turns picking up the brilliant junior.
It would evolve into a long night for Redmon and sophomore Webb. Redmon would go 7-for-28 from the field for 19 points. Webb, who had 18 last time around, was held to 10.
“Our game plan was to stay on 11 (Webb) and 15 (Redmon). Shut them down and play really good D and not let them score 71 like last time,” said Belenis, who finished with eight assists, six rebounds and two steals. “Then just score on offense. Do what we do.”
Thanks to DHS’ 11 first-half turnovers, the margin at intermission was slim, 24-23. But the Blue Devils and their coaches were confident coming out of the break. As the locals took the court for the third period, Foster told her girls, “Just take care of business.”
Stenz scored 23 seconds in. Vandenbrink hit a couple of treys then snatched an offensive rebound and laid it in to put Davis up 36-28, forcing another Mustang timeout.
Stenz hit a couple of charity tosses, Powell swiped a horrible MT inbounds pass and scored just before Grahn forced a turnover by taking a charge from Redmon. Drexel — all 5-foot-4 of her — stoned 5-10 Blair Clark in the lane, leading to a basket from Mazzoleni off of Drexel’s nifty pass.
Going into the final eight minutes, the Devils were in control, 44-36.
Vandenbrink left no doubt, helping DHS open a 60-45 bulge at 2:32. Two Belenis assists had led to a pair of Vandenbrink triples and two more of her hard offensive rebounds were immediately turned into baskets by the focused forward.
“She has been amazing,” Belenis said of her senior partner Vandenbrink. “And her (game just) now was really, really awesome. She’s just amazing.”
Davis outrebounded Monterey Trail, 48-33. It outshot its hosts 42-to-28 percent.
Notes: Belenis was asked if championship high school basketball was different from eighth-grade club games, which she was playing just months ago: “Very different!” the jubilant point guard smiled in the celebration of teammates, coaches and parents. … Foster on Belenis: “Anna plays so above her grade level. She’s patient. She held it … (even) as they trapped her almost every time. A couple of turnovers, but who cares? Anna got around that trap and found Emma, found Rachael, found Tori.” … And about Vandenbrink? Who does coach think deserves DVC Player of the Year honors? “Definitely Ashleigh Vandenbrink.” … Stenz finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, while Powell canned eight points. Mazzoleni had six, Grahn and Allison both had four and Drexel had two.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or (530) 747-8047.