Despite a season of challenges and growth, the Santa Barbara High girls’ basketball team persevered all the way to the second round of the CIF-SS Division 2AA playoffs. But the rollercoaster ride came to an end following a 49-25 loss to powerhouse Sage Hill on Tuesday night at J.R. Richards gymnasium.
The Dons only had six players available, including two who were called up from the J.V. team and were no match for visiting Sage Hill, which boasts an impressive collection of talented players, some of whom were coached and mentored by the late, great Kobe Bryant.
“They are so talented. Considering we had two kids move up from J.V., I thought our defense was really good,” said Santa Barbara coach Andrew Butcher. “On the offensive end, obviously we struggled. Not having a couple of kids that are part of the rotation didn’t help, but they’re also tall and aggressive.”
Freshman Elle Stone has been a focal point offensively for Santa Barbara all season, and her heroics in the first round were key in the Dons’ 37-35 upset of San Dimas in the first round, but Sage Hill was intent upon shadowing her with multiple defenders all over the court and executed that game plan effectively.
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“Like I tell the kids, if one kid is bad at something, it’s their fault; if all of them are bad, it’s my fault,” Butcher said. “We couldn’t run our man offense against that defense, and I take responsibility for that.”
Stone finished with seven points and five rebounds, and Santa Barbara’s lone senior Adlen Godinez scored six points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
The Dons entered the fourth quarter trailing 48-16 and outscored Sage Hill 9-1 in the final period.
With almost the entire team returning next season and several freshmen receiving significant playing time this season, the future is bright for Santa Barbara.
“When Faha Banks, who is our Junior Varsity coach, was a freshman, it was just like this. We had some talented kids, our record wasn’t great, but at times, we played some really good basketball, and they just ended up taking off,” Butcher said. “I think this group has that potential.”
Sophomore Emily Eadie led the way for Sage Hill with 16 points. Isabel Gomez chipped in 13 points, including two three-pointers.