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They didn’t want to return home empty-handed.
So the girls seized control from the opening tip. They took away Northview’s best threats, limiting shots and points, and watched Stephanie Okowi dominate near the glass in a record-breaking performance.
It added to a 55-27 victory at Golden 1 Center that gave Tech the Division IV state championship less than 24 hours after Oakland won the Division III state crown.
Maybe a bit too low.
“With the new system and the seeding, I don’t think we were seeded properly,” coach LeRoy Hurt said. “I can say that now that the season is over with, and I thought the girls went and proved that. For us to win Division IV and Division III was awesome. We probably shouldn’t have been in Division III and Division IV.
“But we can’t complain. Us up here on stage and me as a coach, we hadn’t done anything until this year. All you can do is play who is in front of you, and you try to win. The kids took these five games very seriously. We played well. Just real proud. Our league has been getting beaten up lately. For us to kind of rise up, the future is bright.”
Tech’s championship came 14 years after the school won back-to-back Division I titles.
Saturday, Tech (30-6) simply had too much speed, length and talent for Northview. Okowi finished with a Division IV-record 24 rebounds — one shy of matching the overall state mark — and also scored 16 points.
“That girl is a beast,” said Northview coach Danny Silva, whose team finished 30-6.
Jordan Smith added 19 points, including three 3-pointers, for Tech.
The Bulldogs led by 11 points at halftime and put the game away by scoring the first nine points in the third quarter.
“We had a game plan, I glanced at the stats and the kids executed the game plan flawlessly,” Hurt said. “We took 75 shots. They only took 36 shots. We had 53 rebounds. They had 29.”
Hurt noted that he told Smith to make sure Anne-Jolie Phung did not get going. The Northview standout took one shot and did not score.
“They had some real good shooters on tape, and I thought the kids just executed flawlessly,” Hurt said. “We tired No. 11 (Gabby Valdez) out. We got her frustrated. We didn’t give 21 (Phung) any points, and I thought Stephanie dominated the big girl.”
The dominance was nothing new for Okowi, who has grabbed rebounds in bunches all season.
But make no mistake: Saturday was special for the 6-foot junior.
“What am I going to remember about it?” she said. “I am going to remember a lot. I am going I am going to remember the team, the struggling. I am going remember the good times. I am going to remember the bad times. I am going to remember everything.”
The regional playoffs began as teachers in Oakland went on strike. The district put all sports on hold except the winter playoff teams, allowing them to continue.
For that, Hurt said he is appreciative.
“The kids were at the end of their season,” he said. “So to let us participate and then to take advantage of it … it’s tough to win a state title. It’s impossible sometimes. I could coach another 20 years and never get to this moment again. I am real thankful that they took advantage of it, for them, for ourselves, for our school and for our program.”
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