Oakland Tech’s girls basketball team proved themselves once again in the CIF state tournament’s final game last Friday, beating Southern California’s Santiago High of Corona with a win of 75-52. This is the third year in a row that they’ve won the State Championship. In 2019, they won in Division 4, and they were headed towards another victory in 2020 when, due to the pandemic, everything was shut down the day before the final game. However, in 2022 they returned and won in Division 3. This year, they took home the title of Division 1 State Champs, showing that they can do anything.
Not only has the team won three championships in a row, the seniors – Mari Somvichian, Erin Sellers, Jada and Jala Williams, Nia Hunter, and Sophia Askew Goncalves – have never lost a playoff game in their entire career at Tech. Mari, a point guard and the co-captain of the team, says, “I feel great. I think to end my career with the state championship…you can’t ask for better than that, especially with never losing. It’s a storybook career and it can’t get any better.” She adds, “I think that of all the seniors, we really feel like we’ve left a legacy here, so I hope that the team can carry that on. That doesn’t necessarily mean another state championship, but continuing those winning habits…the same principles, the same founding ideas in our program, that’s what I hope for.”
One of the most important principles of the team is the camaraderie between the players. Mari says her favorite part about the team is that they’re all “very close-knit. It’s like one big family.” Erin Sellers, another point guard and the other co-captain, revealed that one of the reasons why the team works so well is because they have a little bit of everything when it comes to personality.
The range of the team also expresses itself in talent. Coach Leroy Hunt remarked that this is the best team that he has ever had. Ariana Proehl, a reporter for KQED, said in a news piece, “They are a team that goes hard, and they have the full span of skills…it’s really the full range of talent…There are some teams where you have one key star that carries the team. This is a team where any given night it could be somebody’s breakout moment.” One thing that they all have in common, however, is confidence and energy. Mari said, in an interview for the same KQED news piece, “We have that dog type of personality. We’re gonna go out there, we’re gonna have fun. We’re very, very energetic, you know, in the locker room we’re having concerts before the game. Our team spirit is always really high.” The assistant coach, Jasmine Braggs agrees, “If we don’t win, we’re gonna find a way to do it, and if we lose, we’re gonna find a way back. It’s the hairstyle. It’s the walk. It’s the talk. It’s the moves. This team has all of that.” This energy is palpable when witnessing one of their games, which are always fun to watch, especially with the Tech cheer team popping off and shouts of “OOOO-TTTT” echoing from the supporters.
But the team is more than just fun. It also serves as an outlet for its players. Many players have gone through hardship, but basketball is something they can turn to. Braggs says, in the KQED news piece, “If they play sports as their outlet and there’s joy there, and they know ‘that’s a place where I can put this energy when I’m frustrated, and I’m doing good in it, and I’m also being recognized.’ That gives you motivation. That’s like ‘I am somebody.'”
In addition to helping its players, the team also sets an example. Women, and especially women of color, are often overlooked. Their teams are given fewer resources and less visibility. However, the Tech girls team is hard to ignore. They have caught the eye of players such as Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry in the past, and they are proof that women’s sports deserve more recognition. The team and its success offers important representation to many girls out there, showing that the world is full of possibilities for them and that the narrative can be changed.
So, watch out for the Lady Bulldogs, the champions of the Dawg House. They rise up to every occasion, and they won’t hesitate to turn anything standing in their way into dawg food.
The Oakland Tech Girls Basketball Team 2022-23 Roster: Jada Williams, Taliyah Logwood, Erin Sellers, Sarai White, Jhai Johnson, Jala Williams, Terri’A Russell, Tiana Grace, Mari Somvichian, Zhanea Clemons, Jordan Taylor, Nia Hunter, Natane Chambers-Wright, Marticia Pollard, Sophia Askew-Goncalves.