By Ray Hamill — Providing their opponents are not afraid to travel to play them, the St. Bernard’s girls will finally open the NorCal tournament two days later than anticipated, at home to Notre Dame on Thursday night.
The Crusaders are seeded No. 1 in the Division-V bracket and received a first-round forfeit after No. 16 Western Sierra did not travel for the game.
Notre Dame is seeded eighth and is coming off a 47-41 win over University on Tuesday night.
The Salinas school is 14-13 on the season, and ranked No. 435 in the state, according to MaxPreps, while the Crusaders are No. 189.
Rankings aside, the Spirits bring a very balanced lineup to the mix, with five players scoring eight or nine points in Tuesday’s win.
“We’re going to face a team that has a lot of balance on their offense,” St. Bernard’s head coach Mark Gardner said. “Which is fine. We’re kind of a scheme defense anyway.”
The coach, who watched Tuesday’s game, says is expecting a lot of different looks from the visitors, and expects them to play “an aggressive game” like Cloverdale, whom the Crusaders defeated on Saturday for the North Coast Section championship.
The Crusaders are 24-6 on the season, tying the most wins in a single season by the team at any stage in the past decade.
They have now won 18 of their past 20 games dating back to mid December, or 19 of the last 21 if you include Tuesday’s forfeit.
Their six losses this season are three less than in any season in the past decade.
The head coach and his players, however, won’t be taking their opponents lightly, and will be looking to implement their game on Thursday night.
“The thing about this time of the year is that there’s not a lot of time to prepare for teams,” Gardner said. “Ultimately, you’ve got to do what you do well.”
The coach added his players are enjoying the moment and glad to be still playing, one of only two H-DNL teams still alive.
“They’re having fun in practice,” the head coach said. “They look upbeat and energetic, and they’re excited about tomorrow’s game.”
Home advantage helps, especially when your opponents have to travel more than six hours to play and they’re not used to it.
“It’s always fun for the girls to get the chance to play in front of a home crowd,” Gardner said.
Game time is 7 p.m.