The few were better than the young in the semifinals of the North Coast Section Division V girls playoffs Saturday night.
Playing on the plush, park-sized San Domenico campus in the heart of Marin County, St. Vincent's Lady Mustangs were knocked out of the playoffs by San Domenico's Panthers, 45-32.
St. Vincent compiled an exceptional 21-9 season without a senior on its roster. San Domenico is still playing in an even better 24-6 season, with only six players on its roster.
One of those six is 6-foot, 3-inch center Aminat Oladunjoye and St. Vincent did a sup0erb job taking her out of the game, fronting her with a variety of guards to deny her the ball and blocking her way to the basket with their tenacious post defenders when the Panthers did manage to lob the ball into her hands. She had just seven points, but did hurt the Lady Mustangs with some tip-toeing rebounds.
Unfortunately for the Lady Mustangs, the tough inside work was taken over by muscular Elyzah Bernstein, who forced her way under the basket or slipped in the back door for 13 crucial points and a bundle of rebounds. San Domenico captain Sasha Nagler seemed to come up with a key basket when it was most needed, finishing with 10 points.
Although she scored just five points, San Domenico point guard Rachele Nagler thwarted St. Vincent's attempts to press by consistently bringing the ball up court against sometimes p0hysical pressure.
Even with every thing San Domenico had going for it, and not playing one of their better all-around games, the Lady Mustangs still made a battle of things, ending their season with a gritty hard-nosed effort that bodes well for their future.
The 13-point San Domenico victory margin was not indicative of either the tightness nor the intensity of the game. St. Vincent trailed by only six at the half and were still within hopeful distance, down by seven points midway through the fourth period.
Grace Jennings started St. Vincent right with a 3-point bomb to open the game and the Lady Mustangs quickly stretched their lead to 7-2. With freshman Taylor Owen providing a 3 and Ursyla Baumgarten starting her way to a big 12-point game, St. Vincent fought its way to a 12-9 opening quarter lead. The advantage might have been even greater had Berstein not slipped free for seven of her side's points in the period.
Such a promising start quickly dissipated with a cold shooting St. Vincent second period that produced only two St. Vincent baskets, one each from Rebecca Dodele and Baumgarten, and just five points. San Domenico, meanwhile, dropped in three straight baskets, all on too easy inside efforts, to open the quarter, and by the intermission had forged in front, 23-17.
St. Vincent, coming off three straight excellent efforts that produced the North Central League II Tournament championship and a first-round 58-27 NCS win over Emery, uncharacteristically lost its collective focus in the third quarter, making eight turnovers in the period, five on unforced bad passes. St. Vincent had 21 turnovers in the game.
A real hurt to the St. Vincent comeback chances was delivered by Oladunjoye, who somehow managed to flip in a shot from right underneath the basket at the buzzer. That hoop gave San Domenico a double-digit lead for the first time, and made catch-up efforts by the Lady Mustangs much more difficult both tangibly and psychologically.
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