The last time the Canyon Del Oro girls’ basketball program won a state championship, the Berlin Wall was still standing tall.
On March 3, the 28-1 Dorados smashed their own wall, winning the school’s first state title since 1987 by beating Tempe McClintock 49-45 in the 4A-I championship game Friday.
“I was so happy I was beside myself, “ said head coach Kerri Brown.
Also satisfying for Brown –the Dorados succeeded despite receiving little recognition throughout the season.
“We didn’t have that many fans this year,” said Brown, referring to local media. One “ranked us third in our region” before the season started.
That didn’t last long.
CDO shot out to a #1 Arizona ranking for most of the season, and received the top seed in the state tournament, running the table and beating opponents by an average of 10 points a game.
The championship game proved to be much more competitive, as #2-seed McClintock’s standout senior guard Amy Patton was able to find room to maneuver, finishing the game with 24 points, and helping her team recover from a 36-32 halftime deficit to outscore CDO 14-8 in the fourth period.
“There was so much hype going in, ‘Oh it’s been 22 years, can they get it done?’” said Brown.
The Dorados didn’t believe the hype.
Despite Patton’s efforts, the physical play and inside scoring of junior forward Sydney Lewis (18 points) and offensive and defensive contributions by the senior trio of Sarah Batterton (12 points), Charde Mayne (seven points) and Nadi Carey (six points), wore down the Mustangs’ defense down the stretch.
“An X-factor was Sydney Lewis,” said Brown. “She was under the radar, not many people were talking about her, she came back from an injury and averaged 10 points plus (during the tournament).”
“She was definitely somebody that stepped it up in state,” Brown added.
Carey, a transfer from last season’s Flowing Wells state championship team, won her second consecutive trophy.
“Nadi Carey really is our player of the year,” said Brown in an interview earlier in the playoffs.
While Carey, committed to play at Eastern Washington University next season, may have gained high praise from her coach, Brown stressed that without contributions from “all 10 girls,” the season might have gone differently.
“We are just so balanced,” said Brown. “It was a complete team effort.”
“Sure we’ll have an MVP and that will be discussed on March 30, but that is going to be a difficult decision,” she added.
In addition to the big names, Brown pointed to the Dorados’ bench as a source of team success.
“What the second team did to prepare us was big,” said Brown. “In practice they’d simulate an offense they just learned the day before so we could run against it. That was huge.”
Now that Brown’s 2009 squad has given CDO another championship banner to hang in the gym, what might next season look like?
According to Brown, the future is “exciting.”
“It’s going to be difficult, we’re going to be replacing six seniors, five were starters,” said Brown. “But our freshman team went 18-0 and our JV team went 16-2. We might not have the straight up athleticism, but some really committed girls in the gym,” said Brown.
For now, Brown is enjoying more immediate accomplishments.
“It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of,” the coach said enthusiastically.