Sobrato freshman Jana Pineda dribbles down court in CCS playoff action. Photo by Robert Eliason.
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Up 21-15, the Sobrato High girls basketball team could almost visualize a spot in the Central Coast Section Division III playoff championship game. It wasn’t meant to be. The Bulldogs went ice-cold the rest of the way en route to a 56-38 loss to South San Francisco High on Feb. 21 in a playoff semifinal at Del Mar High. 

“It kind of sucks we weren’t able to go all the way, but we accomplished a lot and still have a lot to be proud of,” said Kianna Maldia, the Sobrato point guard extraordinaire. “It was definitely very emotional when it was all over, and it hit me hard that first we weren’t able to move on and second that I just ended my career.”

Fellow seniors Jessica Byrum and Alyssa Rascon also suited up for the final time in a Sobrato uniform, and what a great run it’s been. Ever since Maldia entered the school—she was a starter as a freshman—the Bulldogs have enjoyed tremendous success, advancing to the CCS playoff semifinals in two of the last three years. The Sonoma State-bound Maldia brought a ton of playmaking ability, swagger and tenacity to the court while also helping elevate the play of her teammates. 

The highlight of the team’s season came in the CCS playoff quarterfinals, when the No. 6 seed Bulldogs knocked off No. 3 seed Soquel, 53-42. Sobrato, which finished the season at 20-7, played at its highest level yet in knocking off Soquel. Maldia scored only seven points, but produced 15 assists, many of the highlight-reel variety.

“It was 21-all in the third quarter when we turned it up defensively and took away a lot of their looks to the basket,” Maldia said. “Every single one of our players stepped up, and everyone was making plays offensively and the defense rolled with it. We hadn’t played like that ever in the whole season, but we knew playing a game like that would take us to the next round. It was just great seeing that and seeing everyone so happy and believing in themselves and trusting one another. I haven’t seen us play like that in a while.”

Sobrato also was playing at a high level in the early going against South San Francisco in the semifinals, and was seemingly on its way to a spot in the championship game as it led by six points, 21-15. However, SSF got hot, Sobrato went ice cold and got into foul trouble, and a close game became a rout. Maldia expressed gratitude for being able to play for coach Erica Wallace, who gave Maldia freedom to make plays and run the offense. 

“She would allow me to take over when it was necessary,” Maldia said. “When it was game time situations and time to make a play, I knew I had to come through.”

Even though Sobrato won’t be able to replace a player of Maldia’s caliber, Maldia said the team should still be solid next season. The Bulldogs are projected to return Angeline Madriaga, Trezure Tu’ua and Jana Pineda, a solid core nucleus of players who have the potential to take their respective games to a higher level by the start of next season. 

“They’re the type of players who want it a lot and it’s great,” Maldia said. “They should be holding their own just fine.”

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