St. Mary's wins NorCal girls hoop showdown

For most of the last 10 years, two of the top girls basketball programs in the state have been St. Mary’s of Stockton and Carondelet of Concord and it’s not often the two have met.

We remember the last time quite clearly in 2006 when a Carondelet team led by former Stanford star Jayne Appel came to Stockton and battled a St. Mary’s squad led by All-American Jacki Gemelos. St. Mary’s won as Gemelos scored 43 points and had nine rebounds and nine assists while Appel had a great game as well. It ended up being the difference between Gemelos being the 2006 Cal-Hi Sports Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year instead of Appel.

During Monday’s 15th annual Martin Luther King Holiday Classic at UC Berkeley’s Haas Pavilion, the two Northern California powers met again. There wasn’t an individual battle like the last time, but it was a statement game for the St. Mary’s team as the Rams defeated Carondelet 73-58.

St. Mary’s, which has won three straight CIF state titles (last year in Division II), improved to 11-3. The Rams should stay at No. 6 in this week’s Cal-Hi Sports state top 20 rankings.

Carondelet fell to 11-3 and needed the win to get back into the top 20. The Cougars are still trying to overcome a loss to Oaks Christian of Westlake Village, which just went into the top 20 last week.

“We scrimmage every year, but we don’t play that often,” said St. Mary’s coach Tom Gonsalves. “We wanted to play them last year and it didn’t work out. We jumped to it this year.”

The individuals that did battle in this game were St. Mary’s junior Courtney Range and Carondelet senior Hannah Huffman. Range led the Rams with 18 points and 13 rebounds while Huffman led all scorers with 21 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.

In the first quarter, Carondelet came out strong and took an 8-3 lead. St. Mary’s, as is its custom, answered with made 3-point baskets and creating turnovers.

The Rams were balanced in their 3-point shooting, too. Non-starter Jessie Viss joined starting guard Lexi Campbell by both making a pair while non-starter Maria Lauron-Ramos and Range each hit for one.

Combined with Range’s strong overall play, St. Mary’s ended up leading 38-32 at halftime.

In the third quarter, the Rams put the game away by scoring the first eight points of the half and going on a 16-2 run.

“The pressure eventually got to them and this was a good win,” Gonsalves said. “It was really good that our bench came alive (in the second quarter). It also was good because we won without (starting guard) Onome (Jemerigbe), who has been out since the first quarter of the La Jolla Country Day game.”

Range said the presence of a standout player like Huffman on the floor helped bring out the best in her game.

“You can’t take plays off because you know she can hurt you,” Range said. “I think it was one of my best games. I was finishing a lot better and was playing with more confidence,”

Sophomore forward Charise Holloway added 12 points and eight rebounds for the Rams while senior Regina Camera had 10 points and five steals.

Carondelet sophomore guard Natalie Romeo also helped keep her team in the game and ended with 16 points, six rebounds and five assists.

The two teams may meet again much quicker than six years from now. Carondelet, which lost to Berkeley in last year’s CIF Division I Northern Regional final, has been re-classified for Division II this year, which is the same division as the Rams.