The Kennedy Lady Eagles basketball team traveled to San Francisco Saturday night and battled Sacred Heart Cathedral in what would be Kennedy’s last game of the season. Sacred Heart, the number one seed in the NorCal Division III playoffs, withstood a frenzied Kennedy first-half attack to win 86-70.
Instead of drawing X’s and O’s on a dry-erase board prior to the game, Lady Eagles head coach Rae Jackson told his players the Bible story about David and Goliath. He explained to his players the perception in the gym was that they were the smaller David, while Sacred Heart, on the other hand, was the Goliath favorite. “We know who we are,” he told them underneath the annex gymnasium prior to tip off. “To us this is business. To us this is our life. To us this is scholarships.”
No one heeded that call better in the first half better than Lady Eagles’ junior forward Julian Robinson. She was unstoppable and at times looked like a WNBA player. In the first quarter alone she had nine points, and was a big reason why Kennedy led by 12 points with less than three minutes to go in the half. “When Julian hit that first turnaround fade-away that made me say, ‘Oh, yeah, she’s here to play tonight,’” Jackson said after the game.
But Sacred Heart (23-6) never budged. The Goliath team had too many moving parts, as Lady Fightin’ Irish head coach LyRyan Russell substituted player after player after every Kennedy slingshot hit to the head. By the end of the half Sacred Heart erased their 12-point deficit and trailed 40-38.
In the second half the Lady Eagles didn’t look the same. After three quarters of play Kennedy’s tank had been spent. And with players in foul trouble Richmond’s other finest had no more rocks to sling at their Biblical opponent. “That was the first time all season that the other team pushed relentlessly like us,” Jackson said about his team getting tired. “We outlast everybody and they just kept pushing and pushing. Traditionally up twelve and with the momentum that we had, we can put teams away. You knew they were going to make a run—I was just hoping it would be later [in the game.]“
As the final buzzer sounded many of Kennedy’s players had a hard time walking off the floor. Emotionally and physically drained, tears rolled down their cheeks in what would be their last game together. For the game senior Raven Caldwell led the way with 26 points, while Robinson and sophomore Destanee Alexander chipped in with 13 apiece. All of Robinson’s points came in the first half.
During the post-game locker room meeting Lady Eagles’ coaches spoke over muffled sobs and told their players how proud they were of their effort and season. Lady Eagles assistant coach Doug Frazier looked the team in the eye and said he wasn’t too big of a man to cry with them, but that everyone should walk out of the gymnasium proud and hold their chins up high as they board the bus.
Jackson then thanked senior guards Raven Caldwell and Susan Valiphone for helping change the face of Kennedy basketball, and told the rest of the underclassman to get ready for some serious offseason training. “We just didn’t have enough in the tank,” he said after the players cleared the locker room. “Now they know the importance of lifting weights and how it can help you through the season. We’ll have them lifting weights with the football team [next year].”