One of the best classes in East Bay girls basketball history was recognized on a national level Wednesday when Salesian High's Mariya Moore and St. Mary's teammates Gabby Green and Mikayla Cowling were named McDonald's All-Americans.
After countless matchups over the past four years in league play, the North Coast Section playoffs and Northern California regional championships, the three seniors will compete on the same court for the last time before starting their college careers.
Green and Cowling, who are both Cal signees, are part of the West team while the Louisville-bound Moore is on the East squad for the April 2 game at the United Center in Chicago.
Watching the McDonald's All-American selection show after school with many of her St. Mary's classmates, Green said she was relieved when the girls rosters finally aired.
She was also thrilled to share the moment with Cowling.
"It's like we're just taking all these steps together," said Green, who is averaging 14.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and five assists per game for the Panthers this season.
Moore didn't watch the ESPNU show, but monitored her phone for the news.
"I was so happy," said the 5-foot-11 wing, who was named co-MVP of the Tri-County Athletic League with Green last season. "I feel like NorCal is kind of dominating right now. I play with (Green and Cowling) all the time and it's cool for all of us to have made it."
St. Mary's is the only high school this year to produce two McDonald's All-Americans on the girls roster. With Moore also selected, the East Bay will have its biggest presence in the game since Piedmont's Courtney and Ashley Paris and Oakland Tech teammates Alexis Gray-Lawson and Devanei Hampton went in 2005.
A 6-foot-1 guard, Green was a favorite to receive the McDonald's All-American recognition after being one of just three high school players picked for the USA under-19 national team last summer.
But being selected to the prestigious all-star game is an honor she'd been hoping for ever since her dad, Will, planted the idea in her head when she first started playing basketball.
"Making Team USA was huge and was probably one of the biggest opportunities that I have ever gotten," Green said. "But being a McDonald's All-American is really special to me because that's the first thing my dad ever said to me about basketball."
Cowling, a 6-1 forward, is averaging 16.3 points and 7.8 rebounds for St. Mary's.
Moore's outstanding senior season at Salesian includes four triple-doubles, a quadruple-double and averages of 18.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 7.8 assists.
No local boys players were honored this year.
Driven Dragons: In a preseason team meeting in November, Bishop O'Dowd High girls basketball coach Malik McCord didn't mince words.
"I didn't make our schedule any softer," he said. "We hear what people are saying, that we are not going to be as good (as last season).
"Why not? Why can we not compete with anybody?," he continued. "We know who we are. We know what we are capable of."
The Dragons set a lofty standard last season. Behind four seniors who signed NCAA Division I scholarships, the Dragons won the inaugural California Interscholastic Federation Open Division state championship.
But this season, a young O'Dowd team has charged to a 15-3 record entering this week, including a 5-0 West Alameda County Conference-Foothill Division mark. The squad, which has only one returning regular starter in guard Asha Thomas, is undefeated against Northern California competition at press time.
"They were ready to step into their roles as far as getting more playing time," McCord said. "I think they all have something to prove."
Unlike last year's towering frontcourt, the Dragons' tallest starter this season is 6-foot Loren Lassiter. But McCord said this is "the best shooting team (from the outside) I've had."
"We weren't slow with all the bigs (last season), but we are a lot faster (this season)," he said. "We've taken more outside shots, but our philosophy is still inside-out. We don't want to live and die by the jump shot."
McCord said that a 70-68 overtime win over St. Mary's on Dec. 7 was a key win "for me and the team."
"The first quarter, we were down (by at least 20 points). The girls didn't put their heads down, didn't fight with each other," he said. "They went out and executed. ... I said "We're going to be just fine.' "
The Dragons were 3-2 after a 62-58 loss to Highlands Ranch-Colorado on Dec. 19 at the Nike Tournament of Champions. But at press time, they are 12-1 since then, with their only loss being by 10 points to nationally ranked Long Beach Poly on Dec. 30.
YUSSUF'S MIRACLE SHOT: St. Joseph Notre Dame's Temidayo Yussuf was responsible for one of the most spectacular buzzer-beaters you'll ever see when the Pilots boys basketball team faced El Cerrito on Friday.
With his team trailing 61-58 and 0.6 second left on the clock, Yussuf rebounded a missed El Cerrito free throw and launched a two-handed heave 80 feet down the court.
It banked off the glass and in. Tie game.
The St. Joe's gym exploded, and the Long Beach State-bound senior was mobbed by teammates and fans while officials met to determine whether he got the shot off in time. They eventually ruled he did, and the game went to overtime.
But the Pilots' celebration ended with Yussuf's miracle shot. El Cerrito recovered to win 71-64 and avenge its lone loss of the year.
Staff writer Phil Jensen contributed to this report. Follow Stephanie Hammon on Twitter at twitter.com/stephhammon.