Lady Sultans close out season as CIF runner-up
It was a long shot from the start. Santana’s Lady Sultans have a history of losing in the first round of CIF and if their conference record was any indication of how well their season would end, no one would have seen them in the championship game. And yet, there they were.
Surviving three elimination rounds, one against third-seeded Grossmont, the Sultans burst into the Jenny Craig Pavilion at University San Diego on March 3, to take on the number one seed girls basketball team, the Lincoln Hornets, for the Division III Championship.
Santana, ranked sixth seed, had their hands full with the Lady Hornets who were as fast and aggressive as their mascot suggests. Although the Sultans played admirably, they were no match for Lincoln, who led 34-15 at the half.
By the third quarter, it was all but settled that the gals in purple would not be taking home the winning trophy. As the point gap widened, Santana’s sweethearts continued to play with spirit and enthusiasm. It was almost as though the scoreboard was not even there, and they were simply happy to be tracing familiar plays across a glossy court in front of all their family and friends.
The final score was 59-25, and the final buzzer did, of course, leave very few dry eyes. Santana senior Sierra Simanek said it was hard to walk away from the court.
“We went out there, gave it all we had, and as a senior I’m just sad that it’s over,” she said. “Four years on varsity and it’s all over now.”
Simanek said, although the final loss was disappointing, it was great to finally make it this far in CIF. She said the Sultans are hoping to repeat the success next year.
“We took all the seniors out at the very end of the game and put in all the players who would be playing together next year,” she said. “It was a good tactic on coach’s part so we could see the potential of what we will have next year.”
Santana head coach Larry Clark said it was a year worth being proud of, despite the loss at the end of it.
“It was a great season for the girls,” he said. “They played very well. Nothing to hang their heads about. This was one game in what happened to be one of the best seasons in a decade for Santana.”
Santana was 4-6 in league, 18-12 overall. Making it to playoffs, let alone to end as CIF runners-up, was quite a feat for the Santee squad.
“I knew they had a chance,” said Clark. “They just kept playing better and better and progressed during the season. The season was thirty games and we had a successful season. And I know that we’re all focused on winning and certainly there’s disappointment, but success can’t be defined by one game.”
Clark said he wanted his girls to make the most of the last quarter, not for the scoreboard, but for themselves.
“I think I told them it was impossible at the third quarter because they were down by thirty,” he said. “But I told them to just go out and enjoy it. Twenty years from now they’re not going to remember the score, they’re just going to remember the season with their teammates.”