RV girls basketball wins historic game in OT
Falcons win first ever playoff game
River Valley High girls basketball coach Tom Zaragoza couldn't help but shed a tear as he walked into the Falcons' team room and saw the smiles on his players' faces following Tuesday night's game.
Zaragoza has been through all the high and lows with this program. In his first season as head coach in 2009-10, his team went 9-16. A year later, the Falcons went 11-16.
"We were always the team that would get their butts kicked," Zaragoza said. "Now, to be able to change that culture and be the team that's feared and be the team with the target on the back — that's important to us."
The momentum started building last season when the Falcons earned their first playoff bid and set a school record with 21 wins. The 2012-13 version of the Falcons kept that rolling into this season as they clinched their first Tri-County Conference championship.
On Tuesday night, RV added one more accolade to its growing résumé.
The No. 8-seeded Falcons edged No. 9 Weston Ranch of Stockton at Falcon Gymnasium 65-62 in overtime to pick up their first ever playoff victory in the opening round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.
RV (20-7) trailed by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter before mounting a comeback.
The Falcons went on a 12-2 run to reclaim the lead at 52-50, but trailed by 56-54 with 4 seconds remaining in regulation after Weston Ranch's 6-2 spurt.
Senior guard Aleqse Hawkins took the inbound pass and went coast-to-coast for a lay-in at the buzzer to push the game into overtime and send Falcon fans into a frenzy.
Hawkins kept her hot hand in overtime with back-to-back 3-pointers to give RV a 62-60 lead.
The Falcons led 64-62 before Sarah Brennan nailed a key free throw to extend the lead to three points. RV's defense held off the Cougars for the victory.
"I did not want this game to be the last game of my senior season because I'm not done playing basketball yet," Hawkins said. "We've never been a winning team, so starting with last year, we just brought all of this momentum and wanted to show everyone we weren't going anywhere."
Hawkins said the team practiced that fourth-quarter scenario on Monday just in case they faced it on Tuesday. Sure enough, Zaragoza's intuition was spot on.
"He's just a great coach and knew what we were going to go up against," Hawkins said. "We came out like it was just another basketball game. Win or lose, we were going to wake up the next morning and be the same people."
RV jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first quarter as Weston Ranch didn't record its first field goal until nearly five minutes into the contest. The Cougars found their stride and took their first lead (17-15) at the 4:08 mark in the second quarter. The teams were tied 21-21 at halftime.
After trading blows in the third period, the Cougars took a 39-36 lead into the fourth and went up by nine before RV's comeback.
Hawkins finished with 17 points, five steals and three assists. Taylor Massengale was one block shy of triple-double with 15 points, 16 rebounds, nine blocks.
The Falcons will travel to Sacramento on Thursday night to face No. 1 Christian Brothers, who defeated Natomas 81-29 on Tuesday.
"These girls are changing the culture of this school and this program," Zaragoza said. "That means more to me than anything else."