By Alex Tam
Over the past four years, the Drew School girls basketball team has dominated its non-league series against Chinese Christian of Alameda.
The last two meetings came down to the wire, with the Dragons winning both games by a combined five points, but on Monday night it was Chinese Christian’s time to return the favor.
The Rams used what head coach Kimball Wong described as a “hectic pace” and physical play down the stretch to pull out a 39-36 victory over Drew at Booker T. Washington Community Center.
“Every game has been close with them,” Wong said. “We lost the last two times by like two or three points, so this was a little bit satisfying and good for our team.”
For Drew (0-1), the close loss spoiled first-year head coach Nnenna Okereke’s debut.
The Dragons had opportunities to either tie the game or take the lead late, but could not convert.
Drew senior Nefertiti Rogers converted a rebound putback with 1:10 left to help the Dragons cut Chinese Christian’s lead to 37-36. After a Chinese Christian turnover, Rogers had a chance to give Drew the lead but missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw situation. The Dragons gathered the rebound, but missed two shots in the lane.
Melanie Wong then made two free throws to increase Chinese Christian’s lead to three points and Drew had one final opportunity to tie the game, but could not get a shot off as time expired.
Stephanie Thai scored a game-high 18 points, including 11 in the first half, to lead Chinese Christian. Teammate Melanie Wong added 13 points, but defense proved to be the difference for the Rams (1-0), which limited the Dragons to just 19 points in the final three quarters after allowing 17 in the first.
“We played OK,” Okereke said. “We did some really good things. Initially, we started off pretty strong and then it’s like we ran out of gas a little bit. The other team upped their intensity and we didn’t up our intensity.”
Drew shot 47 percent from the floor in the first quarter and held a 17-13 lead after the opening frame. Over the final three quarters, the Dragons shot just 13 percent from the field.
“It was an eye-opener for the girls because it is their first game,” said Okereke, who played college basketball at University of San Francisco and graduated in 2010. “I think they got tired and we have to get mentally stronger when things [start to not] go our way.”
Nora McDevitt-Hickey led Drew with 10 points, including eight in the first half. Rogers, Drew’s leading scorer from last season, added eight points.
Drew went 12-11 last season and will look to adjust after moving to the Bay Counties League Central, but Okereke said she is hoping to bring a different style of play to the Dragons.
“I’m just trying to get them to enjoy the game and play the game hard,” Okereke said. “I see a lot of potential in the girls and in this program, and taking it in a new direction. I want to really change the pace with [a] more fast-paced type of basketball because that’s where my background is.”
Nora McDevitt-Hickey – 10
Nefertiti Rodgers – 8
Victoria Verdan – 6
Darby Ebeling – 4
Two players tied with 2 points
Stephanie Thai – 18
Melanie Wong – 13
Cathy Young – 4
Leah Classen – 2
Adrienne Hom – 2