By Bram Goldstein
While the box score might suggest that the Delta Valley Conference champion Davis High girls basketball team leisurely preserved its early lead to the final curtain, the truth is that the Lady Blue Devils had to battle a physical Franklin to the end to get a 45-37 win on Friday at the DHS gym.
After pre-game senior appreciation ceremonies drew to a close, DHS started the game off right when sophomore center Emma Stenz (who just minutes before had performed a beautiful rendition of the national anthem) won the tip-off for the Devils (22-4, 9-1).
Although the locals did not take advantage of that possession and Dominique Vernon sank two free throws a few minutes later to make it 2-0, the Devils did not allow Franklin (12-14, 4-6) to take the momentum. Instead, paced by an eight-point outburst from senior Ashleigh Vandenbrink, Davis finished the first period with a 14-11 lead.
The Blue Devils crept away in the second period, fighting past a tough Franklin press and managing to increase their lead. Vandenbrink contributed another six points in the quarter, including a deep, buzzer-beating trey to put DHS up 28-17 at intermission.
As the second half commenced, the playoff-bound locals used their own press to hold the Wildcats to just four points in the third quarter.
Lady Blue Devil senior Tori Powell set the tone, opening the period by intercepting a sloppy inbounds pass, but DHS couldn’t capitalize. Powell went right back to work though, sneaking the ball away from Franklin center Madison Wheeler. She then sent the ball down court to Devil freshman Rachael Allison, who drew the foul and went on to make both free throws.
On the next play, Stenz and Jayla Henderson got tangled up under the Wildcats’ basket, exchanged words as the referee signaled thumbs up for a jump ball — possession to Davis.
The aggressive Blue Devil defense resulted in the locals extending their lead to 36-21 before the start of the final eight minutes.
In the final stanza, Franklin — which has averaged 13 points in the fourth period this season (as opposed to 11 in the other three quarters) — was up to its old tricks, making late comeback attempt with a 14-5 run. Crashing the boards and dropping in seven layups helped the Wildcats pull to within six with just over three minutes left.
The Devils were not ready to see the rest of their lead slip away though, and they allowed only one more Franklin bucket before the final buzzer.
With the clock running down — and the Wildcats desperately vying for one last score — Stenz swooped in to grab her game-high 13th rebound, and did not give the ball up until the clock ran out and the jam-packed Cage erupted in applause for the completion of the Lady Blue Devils’ championship regular season.
“We got the win, we needed the win, we’re DVC champs,” second-year Davis head coach Karen Foster told The Enterprise, amid the celebration.
DHS’ first game of the postseason will be played in The Cage on Feb. 19, with an opponent to be determined when the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I brackets come out Wednesday.
With their accomplished regular season behind them, the Devils will be hard at work for the next couple of weeks in preparation for the playoffs.
“We’re not going to change anything,” Foster explained. “These girls worked hard all season long. We know what we have to do: we have to be a little more physical, but we’ll be fine.”
Notes: Vandenbrink led all scorers with 19 points. Stenz had eight points, Allison had four and Anna Belenis added three. Katie Grahn, Maya Tarasenko, Powell, Danika Carlisle and Caitlin Mazzoleni all contributed two, while Danielle Gantar had one. … Stenz’s 13 boards were augmented by Vandenbrink’s 11. Both teams played a devastating press throughout as Davis had 19 turnovers and the Wildcats coughed up 23. … In the last SJS power rankings, the DHS girls were No. 7. … Seniors Vandenbrink, Powell, Carlisle, Tarasenko, Kylie Drexel, Becca Hassid and Daisy McKim were honored at the pregame ceremony.
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