RVC girls improve to 9-0 in league

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

“In a game that wasn’t as close as the score would indicate…”
Sometimes it’s pretty hard to avoid the Big Bag of Sports Cliches. Thursday night’s early contest at Sheppard Elementary School in the Roseland neighborhood is a perfect example.

Roseland Prep's Jaque Melendez drives past RVC's Hannah Dolan. Photo by Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat

In a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score would indicate, the Rincon Valley Christian girls streaked to a 50-15 lead after three quarters, then watched Roseland Prep get some hot hands in the fourth quarter. The final score was a more respectable 54-34.
Regardless of the score, RVC presented further evidence that it’s the team to beat in the North Central League II — South. The Eagles remained undefeated in league play at 9-0, and improved their overall record to 21-1.

They are well-drilled, athletic and, probably most important, tall.
With Rincon Valley’s 6-foot-1 Claire Bailey, 5-11 Arianna Hanson and 5-10 Hannah Dolan dominating the paint, Roseland Prep found the inside shots perilous and the rebounds extremely difficult to come by.

The Big Three put up some big numbers against the Knights. Hanson had 15 points, four steals and three rebounds. Dolan had 13 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. Bailey checked in with 11 points, five steals, five rebounds and four blocked shots.

As the statistics indicate, RVC’s bigs do more than post up and hoist bank shots. They move well and are deadly passing to cutting teammates. Hanson even brings the ball up the court. She and Dolan have played AAU ball together, and Bailey, a dominant volleyball player, is a smooth counterpart.

Roseland Prep simply had no one who could go head-to-head with that trio.
Capitalizing on the height advantage, the Eagles jumped out to a 9-0 lead and pushed the margin to 21-6 after a quarter and 33-13 by halftime. Roseland scored just two points in the third quarter, and that basket didn’t come until 20 seconds remained.
RVC runs some crisp plays on offense, but coach Doug Crouse believes his team’s success starts on the defensive end.

“One of our strengths, and hopefully our main strength, is defense,” he said. “If we can shut teams down and rebound, we’ll be in every game. There are nights when we can score and nights we can’t score, but our defense can be consistent every game.”
Crouse went to his bench for the full fourth quarter, and his less-experienced girls struggled with turnovers. At the same time, the Knights suddenly got hot and went on a 19-point run that included three 3-point shots in a little over a minute.

“One thing about our team, they don’t stop playing, no matter the score,” Roseland Prep coach Laura Barcenas said.
Jaque Melendez led Roseland with 16 points, while Liz Nuñez added 10. Both are sophomores.
Barcenas, who doesn’t have a single senior on her roster, knew her team would be outgunned against Rincon Valley. Still, she saw much to be optimistic about.

“Our core group of kids are sophomores, to be honest,” Barcenas said. “Over the next couple of years, if they keep working like they are, we’ll be good.”
RVC’s time is now, a notion that will be verified if the Eagles can win against third-place Tomales on Friday and second-place Sonoma Academy on Tuesday.

“They have both really improved a lot,” Crouse said. “Tomales is really a scrappy team, and very good. And then Sonoma Academy has been right with us all year. We played them twice and both games have been very close.”
Either of those teams could upset RVC. Then again, it’s hard to bet against a team that has won 27 consecutive league games.

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.