Saturday, February 24, 2024

State basketball: Los Osos girls claim Division III title

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Jackie Polk isn’t new to this.

Grainy videos of a tiny girl with a toothy smile and frizzy hair can be found on her Instagram page as far back as 2018, Polk posting hashtags such as #ilovethisgame and #ballislife before she ever hit double-digits on her birth certificate.

She looked comically young then, bending from the knees and shot-putting threes from deep during youth basketball. Age hasn’t quite done wonders yet; a freshman at Los Osos, she looks so tiny she might go unnoticed if not for dangling curls and a ruthless crossover.

“I had no idea,” coach Dawnesha Buckner said of Polk’s potential, “when I first met her.”

Social media did, though, Polk already a next-gen star with more than 19,000 IG followers and 24,000 on TikTok — the explosion, she said, came from a viral video about a year and a half ago of breaking a boy’s ankles in an AAU game. And there was no missing that youthful combination of calm and swagger Friday, the stoic Polk leading her team to a 65-48 win in the Division III girls’ basketball state final over Colfax for the first state title in program history.

She scored 30 points, tying the Division III state-title-game record, stepping back for threes off yo-yo dribbles and dropping in touch floaters.

“I just really don’t want to lose,” Polk said, “so I left everything out on the floor.”

A few hours before her teammates embraced her in celebration, the Grizzlies gathered in a quiet hallway at their Holiday Inn, sitting in a circle for the pregame tradition they’d kept since the start of the season. In a quasi-meditative state, Buckner prompted players to visualize each detail in the final ahead — the stands, their precise role, every spot they’d score on the court.

The only way Polk’s forthcoming performance could’ve been manifested, it seemed, was by some magic crystal ball. Yet in her mind’s eye, the freshman simply ran through her signature moves: those “snatchback” threes, as she put it, and teardrop floaters.

Despite 11 first-half points on five-of-eight shooting from Polk as Los Osos took a 41-33 lead, hometown Colfax — a school of about 650 students in a town of 2,000 just 50 miles from Sacramento — kept right with the Grizzlies through the third quarter. With seconds winding down in the period, however, Polk pushed on the break, stopped on a dime, and loaded up for a three-pointer that set up a fourth-quarter eruption.

She scored 15 in the final quarter, turning between-the-legs crossovers into floaters, soft finishes at the rim and more step-back threes.

As the buzzer rang and the Los Osos embraces began, an outpouring of applause for Polk made clear — she is a player to watch in Southern California for years to come.

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