It didn’t make sense.
On Thursday, the Ontario Christian (18-2) girls’ basketball team had one of their worst practices of the season. No effort. Came into film late. Lazy, coach Matt Tumambing put it. He sent them running for about an hour and a half.
So heading into a Friday night matchup against Temecula’s Linfield Christian, junior Dejah Saldivar’s legs should’ve been dead. And they were, pretty much.
Except she didn’t miss a single shot in warmups.
“I said, ‘OK, that’s a good sign,’” Tumambing said. "‘Let’s fire away.’”
Saldivar did, 31 times in a 115-30 win over Linfield Christian. When the dust settled, she’d made 17 three-pointers, breaking the state girls’ basketball record for most threes in a single game, according to Cal-Hi Sports. She scored 51 points on the night.
“I had zero indication that she was going to have that type of life tonight,” Tumambing said.
Saldivar didn’t suddenly inherit Kevin Durant’s basketball powers Friday like she was the kid from “Thunderstruck.” Tumambing called the 5-foot-5 junior “one of the best shooters in the country” entering the season, and Saldivar now sits atop the nation in three-point makes this season, per MaxPreps.
She knows her role, her coach said. Saldivar has taken 231 threes and exactly eight two-point shots this season. She’s grown into the perfect running mate for senior University of Washington commit Chloe Briggs, the latter a triple-double machine averaging 26.6 points a game. Anyone who helps off Saldivar to try to contain one of Briggs’ drives — toast.
“Shooting a three for her is like a layup for other girls,” Tumambing said of Saldivar, who’s shooting at a 42% clip from deep on the season.
Saldivar made only five in the first half against Linfield Christian. She’d only made eight through three quarters. And after she’d cleared Ontario Christian’s school record with about three minutes left, she recalled, her coaches just kept yelling at her to shoot.
She missed three in a row.
That’s it, she thought. It’s over.
But her teammates kept force-feeding her, and Saldivar splashed five in a row to close out the night and topple the record, etching her name into the record books as one of the best shooters in state history.
Hours later, she still sounded astonished over the phone.
“I feel,” she said, “on top of the world.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.