The Patriots and Lions shared the Diamond division title at the recent tournament, which brought more than 150 teams from across the nation to the East Bay. Both squads finished the Diamond schedule, hosted by Liberty, 4-0. The Diamond division switched from a bracket format to a schedule after a few schools dropped out at the last minute.
Deer Valley, which this year was downgraded from the Platinum to the Gold division, earned a fifth-place finish. Freedom was named consolation champion after defeating fellow Bay Valley Athletic League squad Antioch 63-48 in the Ruby division.
Heritage clinched its share of the title with an easy 49-26 win over Venice. Junior center Sabrina Engelstad finished with 15 points for the Patriots; junior forward Ali Ramirez contributed 14 points. Venice junior forward Sarah Schemerhorn led the Gondoliers with nine points.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said Heritage head coach Dan Swan. “They’re responding; they’re doing what they need to do, and they come ready to play. There’s a lot to love about this team.”
Heritage defeated Kingsburg, Ripon and Turlock Christian on its way to the title.
While the Patriots breezed through their final game, Liberty sweated out its share of the title. The Lions won a tense 47-46 overtime clash against Fairfield. Liberty held a 24-18 lead at halftime, but the Falcons answered with a strong second half. The Lions surrendered the lead with 21.7 seconds remaining as Fairfield senior guard Alexandra Rama sank two free throws to give her team a 41-39 advantage.
A two-pointer from Liberty sophomore guard Julia Covarelli tied it up with 1.7 seconds and send the game to overtime.
Senior center Bernadette Fong scored all six of the Lions’ overtime points, finishing with 25 on the night. Senior guard Kaadzie Quaye, who earned her team’s MVP trophy, scored nine. Rama led the Falcons with 17 points.
Liberty also defeated Venice, Palm Springs and Kingsburg in Diamond division play.
“We’ve come so far, but we also have a lot of work ahead of us to get where we ultimately want to be,” Lions head coach Debbi Weil said. “I’m really proud of them for (coming back). They really were hanging heads late in that fourth quarter, then we had a few things go our way and that helped. Once you get into overtime, it’s a blank slate.”
Deer Valley, after years of competing in the West Coast Jamboree’s marquee Platinum division, was bumped one level down to the Gold bracket. Led by first-year head coach Mark Hurtado, the Wolverines were eager to show they were worthy of returning to the top.
Deer Valley started strong, defeating View Park in the opening round. After the Wolverines lost to Buena in the next round, they were bumped to the consolation bracket. The team rallied, defeating Vanden 63-37 and Culver City 74-62 to claim fifth place.
Against the Culver City Centaurs, senior guard Monique Mulder netted a game-high 27 points, earning a spot on the all-tournament team. Senior forward Jenifer Keys and sophomore center Alejandra Cephas each scored 12 for Deer Valley. Senior guard Jade Neal led the Centaurs with 26 points.
“The last two days were pretty good,” Hurtado said. “We need to play with a chip on our shoulder this year because we’re used to playing in the Platinum division and we needed to come out and make a statement that we belong in the Platinum division. It needs to come back to Antioch.”
Freedom and Antioch, competing in the Ruby division, wanted to show improvment from last season. The Falcons started the tournament with a first-round loss to Encinal; Antioch to College Park. The teams met again in the consolation final, where Freedom emerged with a 63-48 victory.
Junior guard Elsa Ross and senior forward Ashawnti Bloodsaw put forth impressive performances in the final game, each scoring 15 points for the Falcons. Senior forward Aujenai Thompson netted 11 and came down with 13 rebounds.
Los Angeles’ Windward, MaxPreps’ No. 3 team in the nation, won the Platinum division, which included Bishop O’Dowd, Berkeley and St. Mary’s. Nazareth, from Brooklyn, N.Y., was slated to be the bracket’s top seed, but its head coach’s health problems caused the team to cancel at the last minute.