Sarah Brennan went strong to the hoop with two seconds remaining, her River Valley squad down by two. With six Blue Devil arms waving to help make her hopeful launch difficult, Brennan’s shot clanked off the rim. The solid Falcon forward fell to the floor as the horn sounded.
Davis High’s girls had escaped with a 41-39 first-round Dorothy Speck Memorial Tournament victory on Thursday. A quick survey of the floor as the buzzer went silent told the story of this sketchy game …
* Brennan sat incredulous in the key, a where-was-the-foul? look on her face.
* Devil wing Tori Powell celebrated what could have been, at least in her mind, a world championship.
* Emma Stenz, the DHS sophomore center, looked like she had heartburn.
* Ashleigh Vandenbrink was, well, Ashleigh Vandenbrink. The senior heart and soul of these Lady Blue Devils knows it’s a long season. There’s work to be done. But on Thursday, this sloppy win was just another day at the office for her.
“We couldn’t have played any worse,” head coach Karen Foster said of her Devils’ third win in three games. “Our free throws were off, our passing was off.
“They don’t give up. They try hard. It was just enough. We have veteran players. They know they were off. We have to get our passing down … block and get those boards.”
Davis’ win over River City (3-2) ended a long day of basketball in the south gym they call The Cage at DHS.
In the opener, Chico ran roughshod over Vacaville Christian, 63-4, before Orinda powerhouse Miramonte laid waste to Granite Bay, 83-23. It got more competitive as the tourney entered the last two contests: defending Speck champ Woodcreek dispatched a pesky McQueen (Reno), 48-37, before the up-and-down finale between the Falcons and Devils.
River City led 2-1 at 5:12 of the first period. The sloppy play (four turnovers apiece) was a hint of what was to come.
Stenz and freshman point guard Anna Belenis got in early foul trouble for DHS and the two squads ebbed and flowed to a 9-8 first-quarter, the Falcons finishing on top.
It was 19-16 at intermission, with Stenz and Vandenbrink each scoring five by the break.
Despite River Valley switching to a man defense (with little backcourt pressure), the Blue Devils slid behind 23-16 in the opening moments of the third period.
But back roared Davis …
Rachael Allison and Vandenbrink scored, then Powell scored back-to-back baskets giving the locals a 26-25 lead.
Powell’s first bucket came on a steal and short put-back. Then, Belenis’ rebound evolved into a nifty assist for Powell’s second deuce.
Six-foot-2 Falcon post Taylor Massengale gave DHS fits as the quarter ran out, but Stenz (off a Kylie Drexel pass) tied things at 31-31 going into the final stanza.
Powell — who scored all eight of her points in a six-minute span — opened the period by swiping the ball from RV guard Aleqse Hawkins and going coast-to-coast. Moments later, Powell’s 15-footer gave the Devils a 35-31 advantage.
Thanks to Vandenbrink’s trey and Caitlin Mazzoleni’s free throw and field goal, the locals opened the biggest lead of the game for either team at 41-33. But with 4:36 remaining, DHS would score no more — and had a rugged time denying Brennan, who scored eight points in the last stanza.
But it was the unsuccessful try for that elusive 10th point that sent the Blue Devils home winners, but with a mixed bag of emotions.
Vandenbrink’s game-high 13 points were accompanied by 12 rebounds, two assists, four steals and two blocks. Three rebounds and six assists were provided by freshman Belenis, and Stenz contributed seven points and four boards — one of which came with Massengale battle hard for the ball and emphatically closed out the first half.
Now, Woodcreek and the Devils square off at 8 p.m. Friday, while River Valley goes to the consolation side of the bracket to play McQueen.
Notes: Cathy Speck, 53, whose mother the tournament honors, was in attendance — as was her mid-1970s high school coach George Fleming. … In Chico’s lopsided triumph, Kesley Hughes (14 points) and Sara Seibert (12) paced the Panthers. The score was 41-0 at halftime. … Miramonte (1-0) opened its season right where it left off in 2011-12. The Matadors hit a dozen 3-pointers, leading at one point 61-17. Breanna Alford and freshman Uriah Howard each had 14 points. Annie Wright had seven for the Grizzlies. … The Timberwolves got 14 points and 12 rebounds from junior Ashley Breshears in their win over the Lancers. Emma White had 15 for McQueen and Christina Farman added 12.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8047.