Real life intruded on the Mount Shasta High School varsity girls basketball team during its annual trek south for the West Coast Jamboree tournament.
The team was rocked when, just before the start of their tourney opener Thursday evening in Danville, they learned that one of their vehicles had been broken into in the parking lot and many personal items were stolen.
Then, with the Bears already short three of their guards during the holiday break, returning all-leaguer Lily Hitchcock suffered a hand injury that kept her out of the game for a while, according to coach Kirk Andrus.
“Everybody was depressed during the game,” Andrus said, and there was no joy to be found in the way the game ended. Vintage, a larger Division 2 school from Napa, made a buzzer-beating final shot to hand the Bears a 44-42 loss.
Things would eventually get better, but not before the Division 5 Bears lost 60-29 against Monte Vista – the Division 1 school that hosted the West Coast Jamboree’s Ivory bracket – early Friday afternoon.
Andrus said his players were still “having a hard time generating positive emotions,” but they were encouraged to learn from what Monte Vista was doing to take them out of their game.
Monte Vista “was better than anybody we’ve played the last few years at eliminating what we wanted to do,” the coach said. And while “the outcome was obvious from the beginning, we were preaching: ‘Think about what it is that makes this so difficult and learn from it.’”
Losing those first two Jamboree games meant the Bears had to return for a 9 a.m. tipoff Saturday against Las Lomas, a Division 3 team from Walnut Creek.
Andrus believes Friday’s game helped them against Las Lomas, a team that “pays much less attention to detail” than Monte Vista.
“Hoping to salvage something,” he said the Bears had a better attitude, matched up well, played hard, and extended a one-point lead at the end of the third quarter into a 42-35 victory.
Keys to the win included a 21 point performance by senior Abby Andrus, strong interior defense by junior Aliyah Hernandez and sophomore McKenzie Lowry, and good free throw shooting down the stretch.
Hitchcock scored 7, Hernandez 5, and senior Taryn Linares made a fourth-quarter three-point shot from the top of the key that the coach described as “a great shot at a crucial moment.”
Abby Andrus was 6 for 8 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, and the Bears were 9 for 12 in the second half.
“We made big stops when we needed to,” Kirk Andrus said. “It was a great way to end the tourney for us.”
A benefit of playing early Saturday, he added, was getting home early.
He also saw it as a positive that all nine players who made the trip played in all three games.
Abby Andrus and Hitchcock scored 15 points each in Thursday’s loss to Vintage, while sophomore Madison Bourke scored 4, Linares 3, Lowry 3, and Hernandez 2. Andrus also had 8 of the Bears’ 22 rebounds.
The Bears led by 3 at half time but it was tied after three quarters and tied 42-42 in the closing seconds before Vintage got three shots at it and scored on the third one, just as the clock reached 0:00.
Andrus said they were still dealing with the aftermath of the parking lot crime when they got back to their hotel at 10 p.m., and they had to be ready for a 1 p.m. start the next day.
Hitchcock scored 14 and Andrus 9 against Monte Vista, while Lowry and Bourke made baskets, as did freshman Adrienne Andrus, who moved up from the JV team for the weekend to support the short-handed roster.
Hitchcock earned all-tourney honors, and Abby Andrus scored a team-high 45 points.
With an 8-5 record going into this week’s final pre-season tournament at Enterprise in Redding, Kirk Andrus says the Bears “are getting better with experience.”
Other than the game against Vintage, they’ve won the games they’ve had a chance to win and, as assessed by their coach, are a team that is capable of being “quite good.”
They’re scheduled to open the Lady Hornet Classic Thursday, Jan. 4, against Division 3 Las Plumas, which has won just 2 of the 10 games that show results on their maxpreps.com schedule.
Mount Shasta will play up again on Friday, against either Division 3 Paradise or Division 4 University Prep.
It’ll be more experience before they open league Tuesday evening at home against Modoc.
The Bears will be facing what appears to be a strong lineup of teams as they attempt to win a third consecutive SCL championship. As of early this week, Fall River was 11-3, Etna 8-3, Modoc 7-4, Weed 6-4, and Trinity 5-7.