“I’m on top of the world”: Warriors honor Oakland Tech girls basketball team

SAN FRANCISCO — The crowd at Chase Center celebrated a dynasty before the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs tipped off on Friday night. 

No, the fans weren’t saluting the visiting Spurs, who won five titles from 1999 to 2014. Nor were they applauding the hometown Warriors, the team that took San Antonio’s mantle as the NBA’s model franchise with four titles since the Spurs’ last. 

The subject of their adulation was the Oakland Tech girls basketball team, exactly three weeks to the day that the Bulldogs claimed the program’s third state title in as many tournaments by defeating Santiago-Corona 75-52 in the Division I championship game. 

Oakland Tech, which did the school’s trademark “O-T” celebration when shown on the jumbotron, was recognized at midcourt by the team that won three of its four modern-day championships while still in “The Town.”

Mari Somvichian, Tech’s senior point guard, told first-year teammates Jhai Johnson and Terri’A Russell to not take the night’s festivities for granted.

“It goes by so quickly because it feels like just yesterday that I was a freshman,” Somvichian said. “I definitely want them to enjoy this moment, and take it all in.”

The Warriors had honored the team after winning Division III last year, and senior Erin Sellers characterized the event as a tradition.

“It’s like we know each other now,” said the Oakland Athletic League MVP, who called the ceremony “a nice reunion.”

The state champion Oakland Tech girls basketball team waits to be honored at Chase Center before the start of the Golden State Warriors game against the San Antonio Spurs in San Francisco, Calif., Friday, March 31, 2023. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) 

The senior class, which ended its high school careers with zero playoff losses, has spent the last few days socializing with other prolific winners.

A few days before meeting Stephen Curry and the defending champion Warriors, Tech’s girls were visited by the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a player who won three high school, three collegiate and six NBA titles. 

Though winning is nice, Abdul-Jabbar discussed more than basketball with the Tech team.

“His main message was to pursue education, and pair it with basketball,” Somvichian said. “He said the best way to achieve success was to use those two things together, and then great things will happen.”

Tech coach Leroy Hurt drew parallels between his team and the Warriors, noting both showed the importance of allowing a group to grow together through struggles.

Struggles that led to joyous moments like the one Friday night.

“I’m on top of the world,” Hurt said. “To get to do this stuff, where I watch Jordan Poole and Curry and all these people here, and I’m standing on the floor with the trophy in my hand … what more can I say?”

 

Tech has not lost a game to an Oakland Section opponent since 2018, a run of local dominance that rivals the Warriors over the Western Conference during their late-2010s peak.

This season’s Bulldogs team dominated a slew of perennial powers on its way to a title, winning each of its five games by double-digit margins.

With his team graduating six seniors, Hurt doesn’t consider future ceremonies at Chase Center to be a guarantee. Instead of looking ahead, the Tech alum focused on celebrating the incredible run the team has gone on over the last five years.

“I want to stay as hungry as I was when we won our first one,” Hurt said. “You can be a great coach and never win a title, and I’ve got three, so I’m just the happiest guy in the world. I never saw it coming, but we’re here. These kids have taken us to new heights.”

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Author: Joseph Dycus

EastBayTimes