RICHMOND, CA – The clash between two of the top California teams, Salesian and Bishop O’Dowd, had no shortage of drama as expected. Still, plenty did not go to script thanks largely to a bizarre situation with the court and it could be debated just how things would have turned out if not for it.
All hypotheticals aside, however, the result came down to inconsistent play on the part of O’Dowd and the Pride warding off several comeback attempts. Salesian escaped with a 55-52 win over Bishop O’Dowd in a Saturday matinee on their home hardwood.
Alley Alvarado was terrific for Salesian (16-3), with 14 points and six steals. Amira Brown added 13 points, and Silivia Fonongaloa chipped in 10 points paired with 10 rebounds.
Kennedy Johnson had a stellar afternoon for Bishop O’Dowd (12-5), scoring 21 points and adding eight rebounds, three blocks, and two steals. She had 19 of her points in the second half. Skylar McGlockton tallied six points and eight boards. The Salesian defense was able to quiet standout Amaya Bonner.
In the first quarter, Salesian got off to a 9-1 lead. The Dragons seemed to have a lid on the basket, missing a few layups, and committed several costly turnovers. In the final four minutes of the period, however, their defense sharpened, and the offense came alive, with much of the help coming from the bench, and they took a 14-11 lead after one.
Early in the second, Kaysie Watanabe fell and hit her head. Already several players had done some version of the splits but after Watanabe the game came to a halt and Salesian staff and game officials spent about 10 minutes wiping and drying the floor.
The Pride wrestled the lead back on an Alvarado three-pointer to make it 18-16, and with that what turned out to be O’Dowd’s last lead of the game vanished. The Pride started the second half up 24-19 and after a seesaw third which saw Salesian amass a 31-21 advantage before the Dragons rattled off seven straight concluded with the home team still up five.
A Watanabe three made it a two-point game with 6:40 remaining, but a 15-4 run by Salesian made it 53-40 with 2:07 remaining. Johnson converted a three-point play, starting a furious run by O’Dowd highlighted by seven points from the six-foot junior wing and a key block by McGlockton followed by a put-back of her own miss on the ensuing play. The Dragons needed stops to pull it all off, but on a few occasions, they forced turnovers before Salesian could settle into a play.
Johnson brought O’Dowd to within one, 53-52, on a baseline drive with 22 seconds left. The Dragons converged on Alvarado near the half-court line and nearly came up with a steal but committed a foul instead. She sank both attempts, setting up a final attempt by Bishop O’Dowd. Bonner pushed the ball up court and under pressure from a double-team fired the ball to guard Tyra Hamilton, whose three was deflected by Anisa Rillo as the buzzer sounded.
Reflecting on his team’s youth and the similarities to Wednesday’s game where the team almost gave up the lead late to St. Mary’s, Salesian coach Steve Pezzola said, “At the end of the game we have to grow up and learn. They’re about a ‘B' but I accept only 'A'’s. At the end we lost our way a little bit but score’s okay.”
Bishop O’Dowd coach Malik McCord also drew a connection a very recent game, a narrow win over Heritage. “We dug ourselves a hole and then get back in it and dug ourselves a hole,” McCord said. “When we’re consistent we can beat anybody. We want to make sure that we’re controlling our destiny and not worry about who’s winning and who’s losing to get into position (in the playoffs).”
Pezzola and McCord acknowledged the floor – which had been mopped earlier in the day but apparently did not dry properly – was a source of frustration and concern. It did not improve over the course of the game and some fans were appealing to the refs to suspend action. McCord added that he seriously considered pulling his team.
Both squads came off of big games at the Bishop O’Dowd MLK Classic this past weekend and face another top opponent next Saturday; Salesian is at Pinewood and the Dragons are at Miramonte.