San Ramon Valley girls wear down Carondelet in battle of East Bay heavyweights

San Ramon Valley girls wear down Carondelet in battle of East Bay heavyweights

CONCORD –  No matter how often Avery Knapp got knocked down, the San Ramon Valley forward dusted herself off each time and was ready to play the next possession. 

In a game where each dribble, shot and action was met with a wall of arms used for shoves, grabs and slaps, Knapp and the Wolves showed championship-level toughness in the 46-39 victory over host Carondelet to claim sole possession of first place in the East Bay Athletic League.

“It was a pretty rough game, and both teams were fighting back and forth and throwing fists,” said Knapp, who scored five points but was an invaluable contributor on defense and as a rebounder in SRV’s 21st straight victory. “But those are the games I love.”

On a night where points were at a premium, Sofia Bowes led SRV with 13 points, Sierra Chambers scored 10 and Tera Chen put in nine points. Keshia Vitalicio led Carondelet with 11 points, while Kamil Reid had eight points and Layla Dixon scored five. 

With under 20 seconds left to play, the San Ramon Valley supporters behind SRV’s bench who made the drive from Danville to the Concord private school started chanting. 

“We are … S-R! We are … S-R,” echoed through the gymnasium.

As his team was serenaded with this chant, coach John Cristiano started his pumping his fist to the rhythm of the words before joining in himself. 

“These kinds of games aren’t won with just your players, they’re won with your bench and coaches, and it all felt like it was right,” Cristiano said. “This was all SRV, and it was all us because we all did it together.”

The Wolves, ranked No. 2 in the Bay Area News Group rankings, needed everything they had to come away with the victory at No. 3 Carondelet. 

The teams were tied at 12 after one quarter and appeared primed to go into halftime even too. But Knapp’s made free throw and a dazzling coast-to-coast Sierra Chambers layup between defenders right before the buzzer sounded gave SRV a 21-18 lead after 16 minutes.

Carondelet made its run in the third quarter, when the Cougars scored six straight points to take a 26-25 lead with three minutes left. Reid scored the last two on a high-arcing floater that looked like it was going to touch the ceiling before dropping into the net. 

“We learned that we need to be more physical with teams,” Dixon said. “I don’t think we were prepared for how physical they were going to be.”

With the home crowd rocking, SRV stayed calm. Hania Bowes, Sofia’s younger sister, canned one 3-pointer to retake the lead. On the very next possession, her older sibling stepped into a triple and nailed it to send SRV into the fourth quarter with a 31-26 lead. 

Carondelet got within five points, and after the elder Bowes fouled out with two minutes left in the game, it looked like Carondelet had a chance to come back down by seven. 

But once again, San Ramon Valley stayed calm in a hostile environment, and Amanda Kerner’s and-1 layup put SRV back up to 10. 

“We have a rotational plan for Sophia and the other girls so we can get them a break, so we know what we’re going to do when we take her out,” Cristiano said. “It was just like an end-of-quarter rotation.”

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Carondelet (22-3, 7-1) seethed after watching SRV (23-1, 8-0) all but guarantee homecourt advantage in a playoff rematch. 

“We’re coming after them,” Dixon said. “They’re not winning again.”

The Wolves, which ended Carondelet’s season in NorCal last season, is looking forward to hosting the Cougars in Danville when the league playoffs start next week. 

“We know not to expect the win, because it’s not gonna come easy,” Knapp said. “It’s gonna be another rough one, but we’re ready for the fight.”