The Bishop O'Dowd High girls basketball team has plenty of respect on the regional and national levels, but Dragons coach Malik McCord still labeled the 80-59 triumph over St. Mary's-Stockton on Feb. 9 a "statement win."
The Dragons handled the perennial national power from the Sac-Joaquin Section without too much trouble to solidify their own status as one of the country's best teams.
Playing in front of a sold-out home crowd in Oakland, O'Dowd continuously broke the Rams' full-court pressure defense and used its superior size to its advantage. Entering last week, both the Dragons and Rams were ranked in the top 25 in various national polls.
"Their press is legendary," said Duke-bound senior Oderah Chidom, who had 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead O'Dowd. "Our guards did such a good job of staying relaxed and not turning the ball over in the backcourt. Because of their hard work, I was able to get easy looks."
Ariell Bostick, Asha Thomas and Aisia Robertson did the tough work and the post trio of Chidom, Breanna Brown and K.C. Waters finished with transition layups to give O'Dowd a 32-11 lead after one quarter.
The Dragons, which improved to 21-3, led by as many as 24 in the second period before St. Mary's (24-2) adjusted its defense and made a charge, getting within nine points near the end of the third quarter.
"We knew they were going to make a run, but I felt like we just took off the gas," McCord said. "In the third quarter we didn't execute well at all."
Robertson (15 points) and Bostick (nine points) quickly responded to the Rams' 11-0 run with back-to-back layups, and O'Dowd's lead was comfortable again.
Brown, Waters and Chidom, O'Dowd's three senior posts who will all play at NCAA Division I colleges next season, helped account for a big rebounding advantage against a St. Mary's team with no player over 5-foot-10. Brown had a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds for O'Dowd.
Earlier last week, Chidom was one of 20 high school seniors selected to play in the Women's Basketball Coaches Association All-America game on April 6 in New Orleans. Also, Waters became the first O'Dowd player in girls program history to reach 1,000 rebounds in a career in a 63-16 win over Hayward on Feb. 6. She had 11 in the win.
Bishop O'Dowd 64, Berkeley 53: The Dragons took control early in this Feb. 8 game and held off a late rally by the host Yellowjackets to claim a share of the West Alameda County Conference-Foothill Division league championship.
O'Dowd had two more chances to clinch the outright title. Results of a Feb. 13 game with second-place San Leandro were unavailable at press time.
The first time O'Dowd and Berkeley met this year, the Dragons (21-3, 11-0 WACC) barely escaped 76-73 at home. This time, the Dragons dominated the first three quarters to earn their 13th consecutive win.
O'Dowd went on an 18-0 run to close the first quarter, then added to the lead by holding Berkeley (13-11, 6-5) scoreless for the first five minutes of the second quarter.
The Dragons led 51-25 after three, but Berkeley made the score respectable with a 28-point fourth quarter.
Sophomore Ivan Rabb made an impact at both ends of the floor for O'Dowd, finishing with 18 points, nine rebounds and eight blocks.
In one sequence during the big first-half run, Rabb swatted a shot, then threw down a dunk on the Dragons' ensuing possession.
Michael Perri added 15 points for O'Dowd.
"What I liked the most is at times it looked like we were really in sync," O'Dowd coach Lou Richie said. "We haven't looked like that a lot this year, so I was very happy about that."
On Feb. 9, Bishop O'Dowd defeated Modesto Christian 71-62 to improve to 22-3 overall.
Bishop O'Dowd 2, Mt. Eden 0: Stanford-bound Ryan Walker-Hartshorn scored less than two minutes into the first half, and that proved to be the only goal the Dragons needed as they beat the host Monarchs to clinch the WACC-Foothill Division title outright on Feb. 8.
Nicole Mitchell also scored for Bishop O'Dowd (22-2, 15-1 WACC-Foothill), which earned the No. 1 seed in the North Coast Section Division II playoffs, which started this week.