Going into the season, Brea Olinda Coach Jeff Sink thought his young team was a year away from competing for a state title.
As it turned out, his sixth trip to the state finals arrived ahead of schedule and even though the Wildcats lost to Bishop O'Dowd, 55-40, in the Division III championship game at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, the future looks very bright for his program.
"I'm more proud of this team than any other I've coached," Sink said. "We have seven freshmen on the roster and this is such a big stage. I thought we played as good as we could in the first half. In the second half we had to gamble and slow the game down but when you get behind you have to abandon that."
The game was tied 22-22 at halftime and Brea Olinda (26-5) took a three-point lead early in the third quarter, but the Dragons answered with a 14-2 run over the next five and a half minutes to seize control.
Junior guard Reili Richardson led all scorers with 19 points and Tyiona Watkins added seven points and 13 rebounds for Brea Olinda, which was making its 12th state finals appearance.
Aisia Robertson had 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists and Asha Thomas had 12 points and five assists for Bishop O'Dowd (25-9), which defeated Windward to win the inaugural Open Division state title in 2013.
-- Steve Galluzzo