CONCORD, Calif. – There may not have been any surprise results at the inaugural Sabrina Ionescu Showcase at Carondelet, but there were a couple of close ones in that regard, plenty of dramatic action, superb basketball, and recognition by the players of the woman behind the title of the event.
Elle Ladine, Pinewood rally to overcome Monte Vista
For three periods of play, it looked like Monte Vista might pull off an upset against Pinewood, but then Elle Ladine capped a monster game with a monster quarter to lead the Panthers to victory. Ladine had 33 points and 18 rebounds, including 13 points in the final frame, and Alex Facelo sank three of her four treys in the fourth, as Pinewood overcame an eight-point deficit to get a 66-61 win.
The same trio that has fueled Monte Vista all season came up big once again. Alexis Woodson scored 18, Sarah Brans had 17 along with nine rebounds, and Nia Coleman tallied 14 points, five rebounds, and four assists.
Ladine, who is committed to Washington, had a terrific first quarter, but picked up three fouls, leading her to sit for all but the last play of the second quarter. With Ladine not on the floor, other players, including Emily Lee, stepped up to keep the game close as the Panthers trailed only by two to start the second half.
Monte Vista netted 16 in the third compared to Pinewood’s 10 - all of which came from Ladine - but by the six-minute mark of the fourth Pinewood had closed to within two. Monte Vista would have its last lead at 57-55. Ladine keyed an 8-2 spurt that put the Panthers up 63-59 with 38 seconds to go. She earned the game’s MVP, doing so after having gone toe-to-toe with childhood friend Brans, who noted both “are the type of players who work our butts off and go to the gym every day.”
“The biggest adjustment for me in the second half was to be solid on defense, and then offense came as I focused more on my defense,” Ladine said. “Being in the paint is our decoy because we have really good three-point shooters...and some teams play us where they won’t let us shoot and that’s when the lane opens up.”
“Our main message going into this game was just give everything we got,” Brans remarked. “Energy was our number one thing, confidence, build each other up, always staying positive. I was really proud of us for following our goals.”
Bishop O’Dowd staves off Lick-Wilmerding
Bishop O’Dowd needed a strong fourth quarter and overcame a career game by an opposing player to do it, but the Dragons came out with a 75-63 victory against Lick-Wilmerding.
Amaya Bonner had 27 points and six rebounds, Emma Mathai poured in 20 points with four three-pointers, and Savannah Jones chipped in 10 points with three assists for Bishop O’Dowd (8-1). The Dragons also got a boost from 6-2 freshman Isabella Williams, who corralled 15 rebounds and scored 12 points.
For Lick-Wilmerding (11-5), there was no doubt who carried the day. UC Santa Barbara-bound Annabel Schneiberg raked it in from all areas of the court and finished with a game-high 35 points, including 25 in the first half. Kailee Mahlstedt-Kamekona added 11 points.
Bishop O’Dowd jumped out of the gate with a 15-4 lead, but Lick-Wilmerding charged back and closed the quarter down one, 19-18. The back-and-forth continued on through the second, with the Tigers holding a 37-34 lead at the half, and the third, after which O’Dowd ended up on top 57-56.
In the fourth, Bishop O’Dowd went on a 16-2 run through the first 4:49 of the period powered by Bonner and Mathai.
“Two phenomenal players showed up and led their teams,” Lick-Wilmerding coach Daniel Tesfai stated. “A bit of fatigue and foul trouble caught up with us in the end.”
“We settled down defensively,” Bishop O'Dowd coach Malik McCord said. “We had our first game in 22 days last night. I was not expecting us not to have our best game last night as well as tonight. We’re giving up way too many points, and bad turnovers.”
Noting that last year changed how he views years of experience, McCord added: “There’s really only two players who have varsity experience. I’m happy for this group, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Pinole Valley outlasts Castro Valley
At the end of the third period, Pinole Valley looked like it had wrested control of what had been a close contest, but it needed clutch free-throw shooting and a couple of steals from the game’s MVP to cement a 66-59 victory.
Imani Johnson had 18 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and three steals for Pinole Valley (11-4). The Spartans trailed 15-13 after one, but went into halftime with a 31-27 advantage. In the third, they continued a run they had started at the end of the half, using a 12-2 push to the quarter. Faith Dumlao hit a trio of three-pointers, and the team had four assists in the period. But Castro Valley (8-7) flipped the script in the fourth.
Freshman Sofia Tom found the bottom of the net at the line and from beyond the arc, Lauren Green did a bit of everything, and defensively the Trojans limited the scoring to just three Spartans. Castro Valley was down 57-51 with 3:24 to go, and a deep two by Anisa Rufferman cut the lead to four 30 seconds later. With just under a minute to go Tom converted a pair of free throws – her fifth and sixth of the quarter – to make it 62-59.
That’s when Johnson took firm control to guarantee the win. The versatile junior drove through the lane and drew a foul and, after making both free throw attempts, came up with a steal after an inbounds play and sank two more free throws. She finished the stretch with a clean pick of a Castro Valley pass in the paint and the Trojans elected not to foul.
“Free throws are some of the clutch shots you have to hit, so I practice every day to perfect my craft,” Johnson said.
Dumlao finished with 12, all on threes, To’Shia Reynolds had eight points and five boards, and Stephania Salazar tallied 10 points and five blocks.
For Castro Valley, Green compiled 18 points, eight rebounds, and three steals, Tom finished with 16 points, and Rufferman contributed 13 points and 10 boards.
Piedmont trounces Las Lomas
In the day’s first game, Piedmont had three players surpass 20 points, and after a close first quarter blew the game open en route to an 83-38 victory.
Trinity Zamora earned the MVP after notching 27 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and two blocks. All but five of her point total came in the first half as Madison Hill and Natalia Martinez added additional punch. Hill, a junior guard, went for 25 while sophomore guard Natalia Martinez chipped in 23. Piedmont (12-4) had a short bench as only seven players were in uniform.
Isabela De la Cruz scored 16 points for Las Lomas (8-8). The Knights trailed 22-16 after one, but were on the wrong end of a 27-8 difference in the second, and never recovered.
The teams were originally scheduled to play at 8:30, with Menlo and Lincoln taking the court for the 10:00 game. However, a late cancellation due to COVID moved the Piedmont-Las Lomas game to 10:00, with the rest of the schedule going on as planned.
They all know Sabrina
Before becoming the number one overall pick in the 2020 WNBA draft, Sabrina Ionescu set all sorts of Pac-12 and NCAA national records at the University of Oregon, and before that she was well-known in Bay Area high school hoops as a star at Miramonte. Kelly Sopak coached her there, and in his first full year at Carondelet put on this tournament in her name. Multiple players and coaches had glowing things to say about Ionescu.
Sarah Brans: “We’ve always been impressed with Sabrina not just for the basketball player she is on the court, but who she is off the court. It’s so admirable to have a female athlete...who’s just always that hard worker and trying to make other players around her better. Me and my sister always looked up to her.”
Malik McCord: “Anything with Sabrina’s name on it is going to be legit. I knew Kelly would have a great event.”
Trinity Zamora: “She’s one of my favorite players. She’s very inspiring.”