OAKLAND — Anyone who watches basketball will tell you that a good team will beat a great individual.
But late Saturday afternoon, after watching Pleasant Valley of Chico finish an unbeaten season with a 63-49 victory over El Camino of Oceanside in the State Division II girls' championship game, one had the uneasy feeling that if brilliant guard Sharon Turner had been turned loose, the result might have been different.
Turner, perhaps the most explosive offensive player since Riverside Poly's All-American Cheryl Miller, had averaged 33.8 points a game in leading the Wildcats to a 27-1 record before Saturday's season-ender at the Oakland Alameda Coliseum Arena before a crowd of nearly 5,000.
Certainly, Pleasant Valley's defense, which double- and triple-teamed Turner, had something to do with her relatively subpar 16-point performance. Or perhaps, it was picking up a third foul with 6:39 left in the second quarter that forced Turner to play conservatively.
Good reasons, but a disconsolate Turner, who is being pursued by nearly every major college in the country, offered a far more direct explanation.
"I've been getting criticized in the papers for shooting too much," said the 5-foot 9-inch point guard. "When you score a lot, you get called a hog or else they say you're a (bleep).
"Coach wanted me to look inside today. I felt I could score and shoot more, but that wasn't part of the plan. I felt I could have been used differently."
Turner's argument was well taken. Although she made only 8 of 21 shots, there were long stretches when she was content to merely be an observer rather than going to the basket and drawing fouls. She did have eight assists, but with the exception of center Vicki Evans (13 points), none of her teammates was able to crack double figures, most appearing too timid to shoot.
Turner's lack of participation was noted by Pleasant Valley guard Tracey Anderson, who spent the day dogging Turner's every step.
"You know, I kept wondering when she was going to take me to the basket, but maybe getting the three fouls made her more careful," Anderson said. "I was real nervous before the game because she can score. We were all expecting her to take over, but she never did."
Pleasant Valley Coach Tom Campbell, whose team lost to Point Loma in last year's final, was also a bit perplexed by Turner's play. But he wasn't complaining.
"She's a great ballplayer and I thought Tracey did a great job of controlling her," Campbell said. "We knew she was most of the offense, and we were bringing everyone over from the weak side to help.
"I guess we thought she'd go to the basket, but she didn't."
El Camino Coach Ray Johnson, however, did not think that a virtuoso performance by Turner would have made a difference.
"She's a great ballhandler and an extremely good passer," he said. "We wanted her out in front, and we had to go with what brought us here. The other girls can score, too.
"This is a team game. Hey, give them (Pleasant Valley) credit. Anderson did a hell of a job."
Pleasant Valley forward Kari Christensen wasn't bad either, scoring 26 points and pulling down 13 rebounds. She also made 8 of 13 free throws, the best of the Vikings, who made 21 of 33 from the line.
In contrast, El Camino attempted only six free throws, making one. The disparate treatment from the officials didn't appear to be a factor until guard Renee Phillips went to the bench with her fourth foul with 5:55 left in the third quarter.
When she sat down, the score was 33-31 in favor of Pleasant Valley. When she returned with 2:01 left, it was 41-33. In that time, Turner never took a shot, and the Wildcats had breathing room and a State title.
"Last season, we were undefeated until the last game," said Campbell, whose team finished 28-0. "And it was tough to lose that last game. But about 70 miles out of town, the girls started talking about how much fun they had coming to play, and they wanted to come back. They were ready to start work then.
"This is the greatest feeling in the world. I don't think there's anything better than this."