Flashing lights and cheers from the crowd welcomed Country Day’s Cavaliers to the Golden One Center as the basketball players prepared for an exhibition match in the home of the Sacramento Kings on Jan. 12.
Two weeks later, the Cavs were welcomed yet again with the screams of Country Day students, this time for their Jan. 27 homecoming games.
Golden One Experience
The boys and girls varsity basketball teams both played Valley Christian High School’s Lions for the match at the Golden One Center.
The boys secured a win with a one-point lead and a final score of 59-58, while the girls lost their game, 57-34.
Standout players for the boys’ match included four seniors: power forward Tonye Jack, and point guards Jonah David and RJ Vargo. Junior center Derek Taylor stood out during the game as well.
“Just getting the experience to be able to play at Golden One was great. It’s kind of a dream for just about everybody who’s ever played basketball, and it’s the best stadium in actually all of the NBA.” Taylor said.
“So, the fact that we, as a bunch of high schoolers, got to play at it, was quite exhilarating.”
The stadium’s environment, coupled with the outcome of the match, gave the team a well-needed boost of confidence — especially after their previous loss at their home game against Sacramento Adventist High School.
“I think it showed that we can compete against any team in the league,” Jack said. “Being able to play in that big of an area was such an environment. It was a big team morale boost, and it was very fun.”
Jack and Taylor initially found the court daunting, but quickly found their footing.
“I expected the court to be a lot bigger,” Jack said. “I thought I would get a lot more tired running around there. But, I didn’t feel so tired; I felt pretty natural.”
That night, Valley Christian fielded a large varsity team and rapidly rotated players. Country Day’s team is small and was short-staffed, missing senior center Jacob Chand due to a sprained ankle.
“We knew they were just going to run us,” David said.
Still, Country Day gained a small lead over Valley Christian because of quality distribution from Vargo, who paired well with sophomore center Henry Wilson.
The fourth quarter shook the Cavs’ control of the game. Taylor fouled out, requiring senior power forward Ryan Paul to step up and defend Valley Christian’s threats in the paint.
To increase the pressure, both Vargo and Wilson had to play through injury.
Vargo aggravated a pre-existing injury to his shoulder, and Wilson rolled his ankle while taking a jump shot.
“We did miss a ton of layups — like 20 of them — which is around 40 points. And, we won by one. So, it definitely could have changed the game by a significant margin,” Taylor said. “We made some bad decisions, but the game was generally pretty good. That’s really the biggest problem we had.”
“That whole last five minutes felt like forever,” Jack said. “But eventually, we got there.”
The match was suspenseful, with Valley Christian leading much of the game. Near the end, however, the Cavs whittled down the big lead to 2 points, and David hit a 3-pointer from the left corner, giving the Cavs a single-point lead.
With the win, the Cavs advanced their record to 5-7-0 on the season.
Although the girls faced a loss of 57-34, freshman point guard Ella Martinelli was nevertheless proud of the team’s significant improvement compared to last year’s season.
The girls team struggled to keep up with the height and skill that Valley Christian brought, but the defensive duo of senior center Brynne Barnard-Bahn and junior center Rachel Pirie challenged effectively, and Martinelli scored eight 3-pointers.
“We were really trying to have fun, because we lost by like 90 last year. I feel like it was a really good bonding experience for us,” Martinelli said. “It was a big staple in all of our basketball careers.”
Country Day’s varsity boys and girls basketball teams both beat the Cristo Rey Saints during their homecoming games on Jan. 27. The boys won 62-28, while the girls won by one point, 27-26.
“It was nostalgic playing Cristo Rey for the last time,” senior Barnard-Bahn said.
“I feel like I’ve been at odds with them for a while. I’ve jammed my fingers against them twice and chipped my tooth. Every time I played against them I got an injury. But this time, I came out unscathed.”
David said the other team played aggressively.
“Tonye really kept his composure, because some players were pushing hard,” David said.
The homecoming game had Country Day students filling the seats to support the Cavs.
“There’s a bunch more people watching you,” Barnard-Bahn said. “So, there’s a lot more pressure. If you win, then everyone’s proud of you. If the other team had stolen that, we would have been kicking ourselves after.”
Overall, the Cavs’ hard work paid off.
“I think we did a lot of good team play, and we’re making our shots,” David said. “I’m just happy that I came in at 6 o’clock today and hit a bunch of threes.”
— By Siri Atluri and Adam Akins
Originally published in the Feb. 8 edition of The Octagon