MORAGA – Salesian High was pushed to its limits Friday night by San Ramon Valley, but ultimately made history.
The Pride won its first ever North Coast Section Open Division title with a 59-55 victory over the Wolves at St. Mary’s College.
“With heart and soul,” said Salesian coach Steve Pezzola after an awards ceremony in midcourt. “Every game, we never give up. We’ve been a few points lower at times this year, but we’re balanced.”
The top-seeded Salesian (25-4) will advance to the NorCal Open Division playoffs against a team yet to be determined, while No. 2 San Ramon Valley (26-4) awaits his assignment – whether it the Open Division is or a lower one.
Makiah Asidanya led Salesian with 18 points, Madalyn Kanazawa added 13 and Ayla Rege nine points on a trio of three-point baskets in the second quarter. For San Ramon Valley, point guard Sierra Chambers and Anneka Lupinek each had 15 points.
The game was tight throughout, with sticky defenses on both sides. San Ramon Valley never led by more than six points and Salesian never led by more than five points.
Although Pezzolo said that Salesian is not a team that relies heavily on the three-point shot, the Pride had eight in the first half to help take a 32-30 halftime lead.
Final: Salesian 59, San Ramon Valley 55 | Salesian wins NCS Open girls’ title | @joseph_dycus @linkswich @GReeves23 pic.twitter.com/aGPEsuM20x
— Darren Sabedra (@DarrenSabedra) February 25, 2023
Still within 44-43 at the end of the third quarter, San Ramon Valley rose to a 52-47 lead in the fourth by 4:48 on a pair of Chambers free throws.
From there, the Wolves only scored three points the rest of the way, as Salesian controlled things inside and secured a close victory.
Asidanya’s drive put Salesian at 53-52 with 3:10 left, with Chambers scoring on a drive with 1:28 left to give San Ramon Valley its final lead at 54-53.
From there, Asiasi scored on a follow-up for a 55-54 lead, D’yani Bernstine scored on a 53.3 second layup to make it 57-54 and the Wolves only scored one more point on a Lupinek’s free throw with 29.4 seconds remaining.
Asidanya’s two free throws with 24 seconds remaining secured the final margin and put the game on ice.
“I told the girls it would feel a lot better to walk out of this building after winning the game with tears of joy instead of tears of sadness, but it wouldn’t change the amount of pride we have for these kids and how difficult they are.” worked,” said Wolves coach John Cristiano. “It hurts, but we lost to a great team.”
San Ramon Valley, which relies heavily on three-point shots, got its last from Lupinek with 7:42 to play.
The way Salesian played the trajectory was representative of the plan of action.
“We knew we didn’t want to get into a target shooting competition,” said Asidanya. “We stuck to what we know, which is drive and attack. They were a very good team, a very good match, and we are happy with a new title for our school.”
Senior Nyana Asiasi tried to contribute in other ways when she couldn’t drop her shots, scoring four runs but contributing a solid floor game and defending with tenacity.
“Tonight me and the basket didn’t get along very well, so I tried to contribute in any way I could,” said Asiasi.
Pezzola acknowledged the difficulty of being an Open Division team in the NorCals, but liked what he saw in terms of persistence.
“Last year we had 13 players and today we only had eight. One of our starters was out with an injury and hopefully she will be back,” said Pezzola. “We just had to dig deep.”