Or perhaps the explanation should be: All of the above.
For three quarters of the CIF Division II Girls State Championship game at Sleep Train Arena, Elk Grove looked every bit the Northern California Regional champion that they are. The great team defense combined with quick ball movement and crisp passing and good shooting. The Thundering Herd led Cajon High School, 32-31, going into the fourth quarter.
Then something happened. Take your pick from the list in paragraph one.
|Mira Shulman drives for two of her 15 points|
The Cowgirls went on an incredible 19-0 scoring run. Incredible not so much with how well Cajon played, but incredible that Elk Grove couldn't make a basket the entire fourth quarter.
"We didn't do anything different," winning coach Mark Lehman claimed. "We just started to play like we can."
Cajon cruised in the fourth quarter to a 55-36 state championship win, that school's first CIF title.
The Cowgirls outscored Elk Grove 24-4 in that decisive final period. Mira Shulman finally got her team some points on a pair of free throws with 1:32 left in the game. Her 15 points led Elk Grove, but she had to fight for many of those buckets.
"(Shulman) was absolutely going off on us for three quarters," Lehman said. "But, Tyla (Turner) shut her down."
Elk Grove coach Larry Price, like his players, struggled to explain what happened in that final period of play.
"We have to take our hats off to Cajon for they played excellent defense against us," Price said. "A NorCal Championship is nothing to sneeze about. The nay-sayers didn't think we'd win any championship."
|Coach Larry Price talking to his team during a timeout|
The Herd had a 20-11 lead with 2:50 left in the second quarter, but Shulman picked up her third foul and went to the bench. Cajon finished the first half on a 10-0 run and led 21-20 at intermission.
"We had to take Mira out and that threw our balance of things off and we couldn't make up for it," Price explained.
The Cowgirls then started using their height advantage and took control of the boards in the second half. Their leading scorer, Kayla Washington, finished her high school career with 17 points and 15 rebounds. She's on her way to play collegiately at Washington State.Tyla Turner also had 17 for the Cowgirls and Taylor Goldsberry added 12 points and 16 rebounds. The Cowgirls out-rebounded Elk Grove, 44-21.
Elk Grove senior guard Madison Wong made her first three-point shot of the game and later had another one to go with four free throws to finish her high school career with ten points. With tears in her eyes she tried to thank her teammates for four great years at Elk Grove.
"I am really proud for all the work they've put in," Wong said. "This outcome is not what we wanted, but the journey here was really great. We're kicking the door in for years to come."
Wong is the school's all-time leading scorer.
Price thanked his girls for a great season, his first at Elk Grove.
"They came out last summer and worked hard, came back in the fall and worked hard, " he said. "We didn't really come together as a team until November. We had some players who were playing two sports and that contributed to cohesiveness and we didn't jell until the conference started. From there we took off."
|The post-game news conference with Mira Shulman, left, Madison Wong||and Coach Larry Price|
"There is a rich tradition at Elk Grove in sports, in football, in softball and in baseball and we're just now the new kids on the block," he continued. "They set the bar and we're ready, we'll be back."
*This was Elk Grove High School's first basketball team to play for a CIF State Championship. However, prior to 1981, the first CIF state title game, the Section champions would play at the Oakland Arena in what was dubbed, "The Tournament of Champions." In 1975 Elk Grove, coached by Dan Risley with seven-foot center Bill Cartwright leading the way, won the TOC.
*Pleasant Grove boys remain the only state basketball champions from the Elk Grove Unified School District. They won the Division I trophy in 2013. The next season the PG girls won the NorCal Division I championship, but lost in the state championship game to Canyon Springs.
*Elk Grove finished the season with a 24-11 record and were second place in the Delta League. St. Francis, the Delta champions, won the Division I NorCals, but lost the state championship to Brea Olinda, 64-51, Thursday.