The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
The Daily Journal Jinx has reared its ugly head once again. There was a period of time when featured athletes tended to have subpar performances following their appearance in the pages of the Daily Journal. But it’s been a while.
Until last week when I lauded the College of San Mateo women’s basketball team for avoiding the injury bug early in the season.
Oops. The day my column appeared last week, guard Megan Pham injured her hand in practice and will be out a week. In the second quarter of the Bulldogs’ tournament opener against Butte, they lost forward Dominique Bonaparte for the season with a torn ACL.
There is a silver lining to this development, however, as the Bulldogs put together an incredible three-game stretch: one that saw them eclipse the century mark on the scoreboard on their way to winning the Tom Martinez Invitational tournament.
“Down two injured starters and we won the championship. I’m so proud of [the team] for stepping up. A lot of them had to play positions they didn’t even practice,” said CSM coach Michelle Warner. “I knew it would be a struggle (without two starters). I’m just amazed. … I don’t think I’ve been surprised by a team as much as I have this year.”
It was a barrage of Gabby Jajeh 3-pointers that set the tone for CSM (9-2) in Friday’s 104-78 win over Butte. Jajeh buried eight 3s on her way to a game-high 26 points to lead five Bulldogs in double figures. Sophia Leon added 17. Mariah Elzy and Corryne Millett each recorded doubles. Elzy finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Millett had 12 and 10. Point guard Taylor Cormier chipped in with 12 points and eight assists.
“As soon as Dom went down, that’s when we took off. That’s when everyone took the challenge upon themselves,” Warner said.
While the 100-point barrier is a given in the NBA, it is still a magical number at the high school and college level. Warner said it wasn’t something she was focused on, but said her players definitely noticed lighting the “1” in the hundred column on the scoreboard.
“It’s wasn’t something I focused on. But they (the players) were excited when they saw it. Gabby hitting eight 3s helps,” Warner said. “The girls were really excited to be home and excited to be playing in front of family and friends. Being on your home court helps shooting, since we practice there all the time. A lot of that added to (the circumstances).”
More important to Warner is to make sure the team is focused more on executing than on the score, knowing that if the team executes, the points will come. Throughout the rest of the weekend, it was a different player stepping up. Millett went on to record a double-double in all three games to earn tournament MVP honors. Elzy added a pair of double-doubles as well, and pulled double-digit rebounds all three games.
“They’ve been getting better every game at executing. There are times in every game they’ve executed. But what percentage of the game are we executing?” Warner said. “Saturday, everyone played. That means we’re moving the ball. We’re hard to defend if everyone is scoring.”
There are some significant changes to the women’s college game and the men’s game will be following suit next season. In June, the NCAA decided to adopt the quarter system for games, abandoning the two, 20-minute half system that has been in place forever. The change brings the college game more in line with the rest of the basketball world — including the professional and high school levels — that use quarters.
Now, games will use four, 10-minute quarters and teams will shoot two free throws after the fifth foul of every quarter.