By Madisen Carter
Oakland Tech High School girl’s basketball player, Mari Somvichian, has been playing the game of basketball since she was in second grade. As she continued to excel in her game and entered high school, winning a state championship had become a goal for her. On Friday, March 11th, that goal was accomplished when the Bulldogs defeated La Salle High School in the CIF Division III State Championship Game 39-33 at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California.
“Throughout the game, in my mind, I always knew we were going to win, but it's kind of like a different type of realization when the time is about to hit zero and you really realize you're actually going to win,” Somvichian said. “It's kind of a surreal feeling, and when the buzzer went off we were all just so happy. It was just a great moment.”
The Bulldogs trailed the Lancers most of the game, and as the third quarter was coming to a finish, the Bulldogs finally took the lead 26-25 with less than a minute remaining in the quarter. The Bulldogs did not give up that lead the rest of the game.
As the clock was getting close to zero in the fourth quarter, with 17 seconds left, Somvichian helped seal the win with a three-point corner shot to put the Bulldogs up 37-33. Somvichian put up that same shot at the Unlimited Potential Basketball Facility with Coach Packie Turner thousands of times, and it paid off when it was crunch time.
Somvichian said that her training for the state championship was no different than what she has been doing throughout her basketball career. She said that especially during quarantine, she focused on repping out her shot and working on her skills. Somvichian finished her junior season with a total of 374 points, 94 assists, 70 steals, and 51 rebounds. She led the team with an average of 12.5 points per game and 3.1 assists.
“I tried to stick to the script. It had been working, so I didn't really want to change anything [for the] big game,” Somvichian said. “Just really trying to stay locked in, focused, and reminding myself that I put the work in to get there and just really trust in that.”
Not only has she been working on her physical game throughout the years, but also on her mental game with Coach Packie, preparing her for that moment in the championship. Somvichian said that all the advice Coach Packie had given her since she had been training with him since the fourth grade had helped prepare her and make her ready to play in the championship game.
“He always tells me if you miss 10 shots, you'll make the next 10. So, I feel like [that] kind of makes me bulletproof in a sense of confidence. He's always telling me it's in the eye of the beholder, it's how you look at it,” Somvichian said. “If you tell yourself, ‘Oh, I'm ready for this moment,’ [and] if you portray that confidence, not only are you going to believe it, but your teammates are going to believe it as well. It really changes the dynamic and it all starts with how you think of it.”
“Just having the opportunity to be with her all these years and see her hard work and dedication pay off in a state championship the way that it did, it's not a surprise, but it's very gratifying,” Coach Packie said. “It's a really kind of surreal experience to watch somebody who has worked tirelessly for this year in and year out, go out there and achieve it. She's got bigger dreams and she's going to continue to work for those too, but this was a really cool milestone for her.”
Somvichian’s dedication to the game and getting better is what got her to accomplish the goal of winning the state championship, and even though that goal was met, the work does not stop for her. Only two days after winning the championship, Somvichian was already back at the UPB Training facility getting her shots in. She said as of now, the biggest goal for her is to have a successful last season of AAU basketball as it is the biggest summer thus far in her career.
“I'm definitely laser focused on that right now. It's the last go around and it's an important one, so I think just really making sure that I'm sharp for the summer and then hopefully, you know, I get the looks that I want this summer to continue my basketball career in college,” Somvichian said.
Until the AAU season arrives, she will continue to spend her time in the gym working on the game that she loves. After this academic year she will have one more year of high school basketball. She said that all but two players will be returning next year for the Bulldogs, and their future is bright.