When two rivals meet in the playoffs, the spectators can be nearly as invested and anxious as the participant.
Take the pregame scene at Pacific’s Spanos Center, where fans awaited the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal between rivals No. 4 Lincoln and No. 1 St. Mary’s.
Doug Murray, Delta College football’s defensive coordinator and the father of Rams guard Naje Murray, sat perched wearing a long-sleeved, black “DC” shirt, at the top of the bleachers where Pacific students usually sit for home games.
Watching his daughter play, he said, is a bit more nerve-racking than a Delta gameday, because of his lack of control.
Nearby, Edison girls coach Diondre Hawthorne reclined and took in the other semifinal between No. 3 El Dorado Hills-Oak Ridge and No. 2 Sacramento-McClatchy.
Edison has won consecutive San Joaquin Athletic Association championships in Hawthorne’s two years. The Vikings earned the No. 10 seed in this year’s Division I playoffs and dropped its opener to No. 7 Brookside Christian.
Hawthorne was watching a game he envisions for his Edison team, which hadn’t won a league title since 1977 until February of 2016.
A few vital facts before tipoff, which should be 8:30 p.m.
- DeCostamania: Junior forward Aquira DeCosta is back for St. Mary’s, and the 6-foot-2 megaprospect showed she’s recovering well from her torn meniscus by scoring 26 points in the quarterfinal win over Davis on Thursday. Lincoln’s win over St. Mary’s in January came without DeCosta, senior guard Naje Murray (ACL tear) and junior guard Ariel Johnson (ankle injury) on the court. They’re all here tonight.
- “Nobody believes in us”: One of the best things Jim Harbaugh did for the San Francisco 49ers is instill a healthy sense of bitterness and venom. The cliche-but-impactful “Nobody believes in us” tactic. Lincoln has to summon every bit of that tonight, and challenge it into mean-spirited defense, good decision-making, ball protection and driving to the basket without fear of DeCosta, Johnson or Neenah Young.
- Rare: It doesn’t appear that Lincoln and St. Mary’s have faced each other in the postseason, at least in the tenure of Gonsalves (since 2002). So no matter what happens, tonight’s matchup is historic and should be savored.
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