RIVERBANK — Having an experienced senior like Janelle Luu on the Riverbank roster is sorta like having a coach on the floor.
Wait. Check that. It’s not sorta like having a coach on the floor. She is a coach. Literally.
When Luu’s not playing basketball, she’s coaching a Central Valley Hornets fifth-grade team, and members of the Hornets were in the stands for the Bruins’ 67-40 victory over Summerville in the opening round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 playoffs.
When Luu missed a free throw in the third quarter, some Hornets began yelling, “Suicide! Suicide!”
“A suicide is when you have to run from the baseline to the free-throw line and back; then from the baseline to midcourt and back; from the baseline to the far free-throw line and back; then from the baseline to the other baseline and back,” explained Luu, who stepped off the stripe and gave a salute to her players after they reminded her of what she owed them. “You have to run those when you miss free throws.”
Luu will have to pay up during practice tonight at 8 o’clock at Sisk Elementary School, but she’ll do so knowing that she scored a game-high 21 points and pushed the fifth-seeded Bruins into the a second-round matchup with No. 4 Bradshaw Christian (Sacramento), a 77-14 winner over Hilmar on Tuesday.
After the gymnasium lights went dark and the players introduced under spotlight, the Bruins (22-4) started the game on fire and jumped out to a 19-0 lead heading into the second quarter.
But after building the margin to 29-5, Summerville (8-20) closed the half with a 12-0 run to make it 29-17 at the break. The Bears would eventually crawl to within eight – 31-23 – with 5 minutes, 47 seconds, remaining in the third quarter, but back-to-back buckets from Luu and sister Olivia Luu (17 points) halted the run, and Summerville’s hopes for a miracle comeback.
“This has been a good group, a fun group,” said Bears coach Dave Woods. “This is our first time in the playoffs in 13 years so it’s nice to get back. We’ve got 10 returning players and good JV group, so this is something to build on.”
Riverbank also has something to build upon: The Bruins squandered most of a 24-point lead, and coach Lupe Galindo believes he can use the lapse as a teaching tool.
“Absolutely,” said Galindo. “We didn’t play especially well at the end of the first half. We have to be ready to play at all times and when we get a chance, we have to take it.”
Janelle Luu, the coach on the floor, agreed.
“Our second string has to be able to come in and pick up right where we left off,” said Luu. “I have so much faith in our team, I know they’ll do it.”
When talking about her teammates Luu often refers to them as “my girls.” As a senior and co-captain, she feels a responsiblity to step up and be a leader.
“I feel a responsibility to represent this community through our girls basketball team,” said Luu. “I know the boys team gets a lot of the notoriety, and they deserve it, but I want people to know that girls in Riverbank can play, too.”