No team likes to lose.
But the experience the Salesian High girls basketball team gathered in a 64-56 loss to perennial powerhouse St. Mary's-Stockton on Saturday could prove beneficial in the future for the Pride.
Salesian coach Steve Pezzola said Tuesday that it's the best his team has played all season.
"I thought that we played with a lot of heart and a lot of character," said Pezzola, whose squad is ranked No. 6 in this week's Bay Area News Group East Bay girls basketball poll. "The chemistry of the team is starting to get to where I think it needs to be."
St. Mary's-Stockton, ranked No. 8 in the country by calpreps.com's Freeman Ratings, took a 20-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. But visiting Salesian rallied and led by one point with approximately four minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Pezzola said. He said the Pride executed better after the first quarter.
"Our girls stood up at that time and played them even, more than even, the rest of the way," he said.
The Pride has another big game this week, as they face St. Mary's-Berkeley (ranked No. 2 in the East Bay poll) on Friday at 8:30 p.m. at Saint Mary's College.
"It's always an interesting game because it's a rivalry game. But it's just one game in our league," Pezzola said about Friday's game. "They are a very good team and they are a challenge. I'm hoping that we will be up for the challenge."
Pride star Mariya Moore is one of the most complete players in the East Bay. The 5-foot-11 junior wing/point guard was averaging 17.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 3.8 steals per game following Monday's win over El Cerrito.
Salesian's inside attack has also been fortified by the play of Zoe Correal, Deja Stallworth and Alana Horton. The three juniors combined to average 25.4 points and 18.0 rebounds per game after Monday.
Kian McNair is a floor leader for the team, and the Pride's depth has been bolstered by two transfers who became eligible on Jan. 1. Taylor Crowder transferred from American Canyon and Justice Toailoa played for Encinal last season. Both players are juniors.
MLK MADNESS: De La Salle's annual Martin Luther King Classic, which is now in its 16th year, has a way of bringing together the top local teams and will do so again. But it's not the only place to see quality boys basketball on Monday's holiday.
The Martin Luther King "I Have a Dream" Classic, which features teams from the Oakland Athletic League, will be played at Merritt College. The highlighted games will be the contests between Oakland and Castro Valley (6 p.m.) and McClymonds and San Leandro (7:30 p.m.).
At Dougherty Valley, a slate of games pitting teams from the East Bay Athletic League and Diablo Foothill Athletic League is highlighted by a 7 p.m. game between Dublin and Monte Vista.
It's still hard to top the Martin Luther King Classic at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, particularly the final three games of the night. Sacramento battles Bishop O'Dowd in a showdown of Division III teams at 3:45 p.m.
The headliner comes at 5:45 p.m., when Salesian, the top-ranked team in the East Bay, faces De La Salle for the first time in recent memory. The Pride will be led by senior Jabari Bird, one of the top players in the country, who will be playing on his future home court at Cal. The Spartans are paced by Arizona-bound Elliott Pitts.
Kentucky-bound Marcus Lee and Deer Valley close out the night by facing Newark Memorial.
Discounted tickets are available through Friday via a presale at De La Salle or can be purchased at the door at full price. Doors open at 10 a.m.
Also a part of the holiday fun is the girls basketball event at St. Mary's-Stockton that includes a 5:30 showdown between defending state champions La Jolla Country Day and Bishop O'Dowd. The teams also met earlier this season, with the Dragons winning 65-43.