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March 8, 2011 > MSJ girls hoops wins MVAL

MSJ girls hoops wins MVAL

Submitted By Maya Ramachandran

When one walks the floor of the Mission San Jose High School gym, the girls basketball Mission Valley Athletic League champions flag shows only two years - 1973 and 1995. Sixteen long years later, the girls have brought home the MVAL championship once again, finishing with a league record of 11-1, the best record in MSJ girls basketball history.

Within the MVAL, though, the ascendance of the Lady Warriors isn't a shock. When coach Doug Sakamoto took over in 2008, Mission went 16-13; they followed that campaign with a 19-9 record; and in this, the third year, Sakamoto led the Lady Warriors to a 25-2 clip.

A laudable preseason with only one loss was the perfect setup for MSJ to win their league. With a relative height disadvantage, the team utilized sound fundamentals and specific game plans to grind out wins, especially on defense led by their bigs Jessica Woo and Maya Ramachandran. The warriors gave up more than 40 points less than a handful of times this season.

"We are very defense oriented," said coach Sakamoto. "Their best defense is man-to-man, and they play it with tenacity and intensity."

The team's success can be attributed to their unfaltering chemistry from playing basketball together since junior high, along with the dedicated encouragement they received from Sakamoto, as well as assistant coaches Chris Joo and Erica Fong, and coach emeritus Oscar Sakamoto. Aside from the team as a whole, individual players were acknowledged for their outstanding play.

Team captains Woo and Ilene Tsao were named First Team All-League and Ramachandran earned an honorable mention. Woo was also honored as the MVP for MSJ.

The Lady Warriors beat James Logan High School for the MVAL title to earn a No. 4 seed in the North Coast Section DI tournament. Unfortunately the postseason is a "win or go home" play. Mission San Jose (25-3) took a 41-38 lead with 33 seconds left on a put-back by Ramachandran, who scored a game-high 18 points. But Granada's Theresa Keaney sank an inside shot with 15 seconds remaining. In a nail biting finish, the Matadors' McKenna Kettenhofen drove down the court and scooped in a shot with two seconds remaining to lift No. 13 Granada over the Lady Warriors, 42-41, thus bringing a memorable season to a close. However, the loss won't stop Mission San Jose from proudly adding 2011 to the girls basketball MVAL championship banner in the gym.

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