Tracey Johnson was a three-sport star at Poway High School, so you can understand her anxiety about coaching against her alma mater for the first time.
Johnson, the first-year girls’ basketball coach of Mt. Carmel, who had a two-year junior varsity coaching record of 41-5--with all five losses to Poway--finally won a game that everyone noticed.
Mt. Carmel, The Times’ No. 1-ranked team, scored a 56-39 victory over No. 5 Poway in the championship game Saturday of the Bronco Invitational at Bernardo Heights Middle School.
“This feels great,” Johnson said. “I lost to Mt. Carmel a lot of times when I was playing.”
But now she’s winning with Mt. Carmel, which has won two section titles in the past three years. And she’s winning with an athlete who is much like Johnson herself, Vicki de Jesus, the tournament’s most valuable player.
De Jesus, like Johnson a three-sport star, scored 26 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in the game that might have been a preview of the Division I finals.
Both Mt. Carmel (5-0) and Poway (3-1) entered undefeated.
“Right now they’re a better team,” Poway Coach Jay Trousdale said. “They had five girls on the floor tonight that were in last year’s finals.”
And it showed.
Using a smothering defense that caused numerous turnovers, Mt. Carmel’s athleticism got in the way of Poway’s height. The Sundevils held a 57-43 rebounding edge.
“It took a team effort to win,” de Jesus said, who set a school record with a 14-for-14 performance at the free-throw line. “Everyone had to do their part offensively, defensively, rebounding. Everything.”
Most surprising to Johnson was the continued good play of her defense, which had been allowing fewer than 30 points per game. Kris Grazzini, a 6-foot-2 center, did not score but had five blocked shots and helped deny the ball down low for Poway’s 6-4 Kristen Carlson.
Jen Alley and Angie Cooper, who won the starting guard position a night earlier in a victory over San Pasqual, scored 10 points apiece. Allison Brady led Poway with 12 points.