Kamilah Jackson waited on the bench until she was the last one left.
Finally, after all her teammates on the Sacred Heart Cathedral girls’ basketball team had jogged onto the middle of the Arco Arena floor to collect their championship medals, the sophomore center heard her name announced and stood. Jackson had scored a game-high 17 points and tied a girls’ Division III state championship game record with 17 rebounds Saturday in a breakout game as the Irish beat Magnolia of Anaheim 48-33 for their third straight state title. And as she trotted off the bench as the crowd noise ramped up again, it served as a reminder that as great as the past and present have been at Sacred Heart, the future doesn’t look so bad either.
Led by Jackson and junior forward Tierra Rogers (13 points), the underclassmen accounted for 34 of the Irish’s 48 points Saturday.
“I was just thinking ‘I must have done a really good job,’” Jackson said about her extra time on the bench. “We knew it was the seniors’ last game so we came out and did it for them.”
Seniors Rosslyn Beard, Lauren Bell, Jazmine Jackson (Kamilah’s older sister and the West Catholic Athletic League MVP) and Melissa Koike led the Irish to a 33-0 record, a top ranking in the USA Today national poll and a likely mythical national title this season. They went 126-8 in their four-year tenure at the school and have formed part of the core of a team that has won 56 straight games.
And now, they leave the program in good hands.
Kamilah Jackson completely controlled the paint in Saturday’s championship, and should only get better as more and more of the offense is built around her. At
5-foot-11, she grabbed eight of the Irish’s 23 offensive rebounds to help the team win despite shooting 22 percent from the floor. She also played a big part in fouling outfour players for the Sentinels (27-7) in the fourth quarter. Rogers showed why she is one of the top junior recruits in the country, scoring 10 points in the final 10 minutes as Sacred Heart outscored the Sentinels 17-6 in the fourth quarter. Classmate Ki-Ki Moore has played so well, Irish coach Brian Harrigan called her the best point guard in the country after Sacred Heart beat Sacramento in the NorCal semifinals. Ashley Boggs, a 5-10 forward with 3-point range, will return for her senior year and freshman Rayven Brooks showed signs of being the next Irish star after she was called up for the playoff run.
Further examination of the potential of next year’s group can wait until November, however, when the Irish will start the season 24 games shy of tying the longest winning streak in NorCal girls’ basketball history (Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton won 80 in a row from 1992-94). On Saturday, Harrigan and the team were content to revel in the success a season of taking things one game at a time had brought them.
“Do they deserve it? You bet,” Harrigan said after the game. “We’re very happy and we’re going to talk about [being No. 1] starting today.”