Lady Blue Devils focused for basketball playoffs

By From page B1 | February 17, 2013

DHS senior Ashleigh Vandenbrink was named the Delta Valley Conference MVP on Saturday as the Blue Devil prepare to host Napa on Tuesday in their playoff opener. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise file photo

DHS senior Ashleigh Vandenbrink was named the Delta Valley Conference MVP on Saturday as the Blue Devil prepare to host Napa on Tuesday in their playoff opener. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise file photo

The party starts Tuesday — and the Davis High girls basketball team has no intention of going home early.

In their last three postseason appearances, the Lady Blue Devils have been one and done. DHS’ last playoff victory came on Feb. 24, 2007 — a 48-42 second-round win over Sheldon.

When the sixth-seeded Devils host No. 11 Napa in the opener of the Sac-Joaquin Section shootout on Tuesday (7 p.m.), the locals have promised to be focused, prepared and hungry.

“We’ve been working hard since the last game of last season,” second-year DHS coach Karen Foster told The Enterprise at a Saturday practice. “We’ve been working all spring, summer and fall for this season. We’re ready for the playoffs.”

After going 10-16 and finishing mid-pack in the Delta Valley Conference a year ago, Davis has fashioned a 22-4 mark while running through the league at 9-1. The Blue Devils captured the conference championship in a dramatic 60-50 road win at Monterey Trail earlier this month.

Napa (16-11) went 8-2 in the Monticello Empire League, finishing second to Armijo.

“We can’t change what we’ve been doing because it’s been successful for us,” DHS co-captain Tori Powell said of her team’s wicked man-trap defense and versatile offense. “We’ll have the same game play … (we need) to just perform better now that it’s come down to these big games.”

Co-captain Ashleigh Vandenbrink concurs:

“Our goal now is to go as far as we can go in the playoffs … just keep playing the way we have been playing and we’re not going to let ourselves be taken out of these playoffs.

“If we’re going to leave, we’re going to get beat by a better team.”

Davis averaged 60 points a night in the regular season. It pieced together a nine-game winning streak. The Devils held opponents to less than 40 points 15 times in 2012-13.

Vandenbrink has been the team’s leading scorer at 16 points a night, but sophomore center Emma Stenz has upped her game and is creating inside problems for opponents at both ends of the court.

Powell has been lights-out defensively while showing flashes of offensive dominance — like her 18-point quarter in a key 59-52 victory over Grant on Jan. 29.

Then there are the freshmen, starters Anna Belenis and Rachael Allison …

Belenis has been brilliant, converting her game from eighth-grade club status to big-time high school style in less than three months.

Allison — the sister of former Devil and current Cal Poly standout Nikol, who was on the last DHS team to win a playoff game — also has been a force inside while being able to knock down important jumpers.

Vandenbrink says Devil Nation knew coming into the season that the first-year pair was special:

“They didn’t surprise me. We were working out with them over the summer and everyone knew that they were hard workers. We knew they were going to be pulled up (to varsity and) they weren’t going to take it for granted.

“They earned their spots in the starting lineup and their work ethic was definitely part of our success.”

In addition, DHS has a deep bench, allowing Foster to sift through her roster looking for the hot hand.

First up this winter has been another effective sophomore in Caitlin Mazzoleni. At 5-foot-11, she makes life miserable for shorter guards and can go inside with authority.

Senior guard Kylie Drexel has been a bolt of energy with her recent play and the Blue Devils have a handful of other veteran players who have come in to make a difference this season.

“I believe in these girls,” Foster said as a full gym of 19 players worked around her on Saturday. “We have a great combination of players. If we do our best … we can play with anybody.”

Notes: Napa has a two-headed monster in junior wing Jasmine Washington (14 ppg) and Madison Van Zandt, a sophomore who gave Davis fits last season during a 41-40 Devil win in the Wine Country. In the Indians’ win over Wood in the final game of the regular season, Van Zandt scored 21 points, grabbed 14 boards and blocked four shots. … DHS and Napa have split their past 16 meetings, but the locals have won two straight. … For the postseason, Foster has called up sophomore Alaina King and freshmen Sophia Seng and Kelly Goedde-Matthews from the junior varsity squad, promising the trio won’t be just bystanders: “If we need them, they’ll be ready to help.” … Tuesday’s game will be played at The Cage, the campus’ south gym which seats 400.

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.

Bruce Gallaudet

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