Becoming CIF State champions was a battle for the Serra Cavaliers girls’ basketball team. Not only did they battle against the most skilled programs in California, but they had to overcome injuries and maintain a high-octane competitive spirit.
Along with a State Title, Serra finished their season ranked fifth in California and 14th in the nation. Junior guard Alexis Tucker became a member of the All-CIF Southern Section Open Division Team and head coach Mckinsey Hadley was named the CalHiSports.com 2017-18 California Girls basketball Coach of the Year.
“We started off this season with very high hopes,” Hadley said. “At the time, we had eight seniors that we were very excited about.”
All was well early in the season until senior forward DeLauna Thomas tore her meniscus. Thomas was one of the best scorers on the team. Yet, the Cavaliers carried on to defeat the Etiwanda Eagles 78-74 in overtime. Etiwanda was ranked 11th in California, according to MaxPreps.
Players continued to sustain injuries, but they still attended practice to support their teammates.
“We just continued to fight and continued to play hard, even though we didn’t have the numbers, we still played with who we have and I think that was key,” Tucker said. “They [were] still there to support us and that was a great push for us as well.”
Losses were scarce in tournament play and the Cavaliers’ success spilled into their Del Ray League competition. Although Serra was a fierce competitor, their sense of urgency began to wane.
“I believe as a program, we get a little over confident,” Hadley said. “Although we were winning, we were having some disappointing performances.”
Serra then hit a three-game skid, concluding in a first-round loss in the Southern Section Open Division playoffs.
“We kinda have to regroup after that and our attitude was too laxed going into those games,” said senior forward Lauryn Pointer. “That brought us back to our senses … that wasn’t Serra basketball, we need to pick it up ASAP.”
The Cavaliers reached the consolation finals and was granted a number two seed in the Division I state tournament. When watching film, players were more eager to concentrate and sacrifice for the good of the team.
Pregame meditation sessions also helped Serra channel their energy and focus.
“We had premeditated before that game,” said senior team captain Dashelle Gleissner. “That’s when we started meditating and getting our heads right before we started doing anything.”
The Cavaliers routed Eagle Rock in the first round 72-41 and defeated Alemany 64-54. Five Serra players reached the double digits in scoring when the Cavaliers defeated Sierra Canyon. Tucker led in scoring for all three games, earning a double-double in each contest.
Pointer led Serra with 17 points in their State Semifinal victory against the Ribet Academy Fighting Frogs. As they prepared for their championship match, the team regained Thomas from injury.
“I had just got cleared,” Thomas said. “It was really good to actually suit up and get in for a little bit and to play with them one last time.”
In the Championship, Serra was pitted against Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory school in San Francisco. Serra dominated the first quarter, keeping SHCP to four points.
“The mindset of the team was just to go out there and try to deliver the first punch,” Pointer said.
Although SHCP rallied back early in the second half, Serra continued to execute. A 70-54 triumph gave Serra the Division I State crown.
“I think it’s a huge blessing to finally close out my high school years as a senior to win a state champ,” Gleissner said. “It wasn’t hard along the way, it was just trying to keep the team together.”