By Jeremy Balan
Lowell High School played even with defending state champion Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills in every aspect of the game except one — putting the ball in the basket.
The Cardinals went through one of their worst shooting performances of the season, while Oak Ridge shot the lights out in a 56-31 win in the first round CIF Division I state championship girls basketball tournament on Tuesday at Kezar Pavilion.
The Academic Athletic Association champions shot 16 percent from the floor and 3-of-22 from three-point range, while Oak Ridge (21-10) shot 50 percent from the floor and from three-point range, including 6-of-8 shots from behind the arc in the first half. The Cardinals (28-5) actually outshot Oak Ridge 62-38.
“We doubled the number of shots that they took in the first half, but with this team, that happens,” said Lowell head coach Aki Kuwada. “Sometimes we can’t hit the side of a barn.”
The biggest problem for the Cardinals was El Dorado senior guards Dakota McLarnan and Natalie Stone, who finished with 16 and 12 points, respectively.
McLarnan connected on 4-of-7 shoots from three-point range, while Stone hit 4-of-5 shots from distance.
“We definitely can shoot the ball well and we’ve had games like that before,” said Oak Ridge head coach Steve White. “We work on it a lot and it’s nice to see it pay off in a game like this. We had some shots and we made the most of them.”
Oak Ridge was up 18-8 after the first quarter and took a 30-12 lead into the half, but consistent turnovers and a Lowell surge led by seven of senior Angie Ng’s team-high 10 points, allowed the Cardinals to stay in the game midway through the third quarter, when they cut the lead to 32-19.
White and the Trojans know that the 21 turnovers they committed against Lowell will not fly against top-seeded Berkeley, who they will face off against on Thursday in the second round.
“It was ugly,” White said. “Some of those were just self-inflicted, in the moment, going too hard. I played all 17 players tonight and it seemed like they all contributed to that stat category. We definitely have to take care of the basketball better on Thursday.”
For Kuwada and Lowell, which will return three underclassmen starters and 17 total sophomores and juniors, the experience could pay dividends toward a bright future.
“This is going to carry over next year for sure,” Kuwada said. “I started yelling at them, then I realized these are mostly sophomores out there. I have no complaints at all. They really started to play good basketball at the end of the year.”
Angie Ng – 10
Lorna Tuufuli – 8
Katarina Lum – 7
Jillian Doherty – 2
Hana Murphy – 2
Dakota McLarnan – 16
Natalie Stone – 12
Jenna Klein – 6
Lauren Sende – 4
Katie Hoisington – 3