When Bishop O'Dowd High girls basketball coach Malik McCord emptied his bench with 14.7 seconds remaining in the Dragons' 60-45 state championship win over Windward-Los Angeles on Saturday, his four senior starters approached him from the court and they all gathered for one big bear hug.
It signaled an end of an era, as the four seniors were sophomores for a team looking to be competitive against state powers and ended with the squad being the dominant team in the state.
"The seniors started with me when I took over as head coach," said McCord after his team's California Interscholastic Federation Open Division championship victory Saturday. K.C. Waters started as a freshman for McCord. As sophomores, Oderah Chidom, Ariell Bostick and Waters started for a young team that reached the 2011 CIF Division III championship game before falling to St. Joseph-Santa Maria and finishing with a 25-8 record.
As juniors, the trio led the Dragons to the CIF Division III title and a 30-3 record, and senior Breanna Brown joined them in the starting lineup this year in a 30-3 state-championship season.
"It feels amazing for us seniors, to go out so powerful with a state championship," Waters said.
The Cal-bound Waters had her second straight outstanding performance in a state championship game. After scoring 14 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in the Dragons' state victory in 2012, Waters had 12 points and 20 rebounds Saturday. The rebound total is tied for fifth all-time for a California high school girls state championship game, and is the most rebounds produced in a California girls state championship game since 1997.
Forty-eight of O'Dowd's 60 points in the CIF championship game were scored by the four seniors, including a team-high 17 points by Bostick. All four of the players have Division I scholarships: Waters (Cal), Chidom (Duke), Bostick (San Diego State) and Brown (Virginia Tech).
"They were there when we were trying to be a top power, and now they are the top power and showing the younger players what they went through," McCord said. "You can't be much more of an inspiration than that."
The East Bay Athletic League still reigns supreme in the East Bay, but the Mission Valley Athletic League is starting to close the gap.
With four teams ranked in the top 15 in the Bay Area News Group East Bay online rankings, the MVAL will be as competitive as any league in the area. There's no clear-cut favorite.
"The MVAL title is up for grabs, more than ever," James Logan coach Matt Guzman said. "Due to the increase of MVAL athletes participating in club volleyball over the past couple of years, the league has become more balanced and competitive."
Logan has been right behind perennial league front-runner Mission San Jose the last few seasons. But this year, Kennedy-Fremont, American and Moreau Catholic are also in the mix.
The Colts began league play with a win over Moreau Catholic on Tuesday, and the grind of the MVAL schedule should help prepare Logan for a possible North Coast Section Division I playoff run.
"The main reasons we can contend in NCS is because of the amount of talent and drive we have to continually improve and win games," Guzman said. "We are a young and developing team and so far we've only scratched the surface of our team's potential."
-- Matt Smith, correspondent