Sometimes life has its ups and downs. And on Wednesday night the Kennedy Lady Eagles’ basketball team got a big dose of down in an 85-21 loss to nationally ranked powerhouse Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland. But all was not lost for the Lady Eagles—the upside of the lopsided loss was that they still qualified for next week’s loser-goes-home NorCal state basketball tournament.
“It’s time to get back in the lab and practice hard,” Lady Eagles’ assistant coach Dajuan Alexander told his players after the game as they sat in a cramped weight room under O’Dowd’s gym. “If y’all want your season to end [next week] y’all practice lazy. But now we’re going to turn it up. We don’t want to lose.”
Kennedy really had no chance once they stepped off the chartered bus. Height and NCAA Division One talent wins every time. Cal, Duke, Virginia Tech and San Diego State were all represented in the school-by-the-zoo’s starting five. And by the end of the first-half the Lady Eagles trailed by 39.
At halftime Lady Eagles’ head coach Rae Jackson told his squad not to look at the scoreboard during the second half and just play basketball. “The only thing I ask y’all to do in the second half is execute,” he told his players as they sat between dumbbells and a Nautilus machine. “Play hard so it’s not just a hand shake after the game, but a hug. That means you played hard.”
Lady Eagles’ assistant coach Doug Frazier sat near a dry-erase board and echoed those sentiments. “Now it’s time to have fun in the second half,” he said. “Get shots up, play hard defense and appreciate small accomplishments. Whatever they may be.”
The pep talk calmed the girls as they came out of the locker room smiling, played loose and collectively scored three more points than they did in the first half. One of the best highlights of the night was a third-quarter buzzer beater that senior Raven Caldwell launched from half-court and banked off the backboard and splashed through the net.
But in the end Kennedy couldn’t stop O’Dowd’s high-powered offense or shorten their redwood-like height. The Lady Dragons scored 42 more points in the second half.
“The higher you go up the mountain the less oxygen there is and the harder the challenge,” Jackson said after the game describing O’Dowd’s talent, and what the upcoming NorCal state tournament will be like. “Meet this challenge of learning basketball [in practice] and making yourself better. Kennedy has never ever been in NorCal playoffs—boys or girls. Play hard and represent your city.”