Chaminade emerges as a state power after Platinum Division triumph over Carondelet of Concord at 13th Annual West Coast Jamboree. Look for new state top 20 later this week.
By Harold Abend
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Not many California high school girls’ basketball fans outside the San Fernando Valley, and particularly those in Northern California, know much about Chaminade of West Hills.
Now, after an 81-71 West Coast Jamboree Platinum Division victory by the previous No. 16 ranked Eagles over former No. 7 Carondelet of Concord, not only are the girls from the Valley on the map, they’re poised to move way up in the new Cal-Hi Sports rankings to be released later this week.
Chaminade (14-1) never trailed, and the Eagles led 62-44 at the end of the third quarter before a scrappy Carondelet squad made a fourth quarter run to make the final score respectable.
The Eagles’ Mi’Chael Wright, a rugged power forward that can finish strongly down low, had her way inside against the girls from Northern California. The 5-foot-11 UC Santa Barbara-bound Wright finished with team highs of 22 points and 12 rebounds, and was the obvious choice for the David “Scoop” Jackson Most Valuable Player Award, named after the Jamboree’s founder and Tournament Director.
“The girls guarding me were taller so I couldn’t rely on layups,” Wright told Cal-Hi Sports. “I had to rely on my strength and I had to outwork them.”
Carondelet (8-2) was very tough throughout the first half, and its running style and switching defense created eight ties and had the Cougars trailing by just 36-33 at the half.
The third quarter was when the Eagles took control, going on a 13-0 run that turned the score from 47-42 to 60-42 and pretty much sealed the deal.
“They gave us something different and it took time to figure it out,” said Wright, who had 13 points and 14 rebounds in a first-round 70-30 win over Sacramento Sheldon, then 17 points and 12 rebounds in a 66-62 win over host Deer Valley of Antioch, and then 13 points and nine rebounds in the team’s closest game of the tournament, a 59-54 win over perennial NorCal D1 powerhouse Berkeley.
“I knew Carondelet played good defense, they could finish, and they were smart,” Chaminade head coach Kelly Dimuro said. “In the third quarter the girls stepped up and handled the pressure and the result was we got open layups.”
The third quarter run and lots of those layups came from production by Eagles other than senior team leader Wright.
Devan Stanback, a 6-foot-3 junior post, came off the bench to record a double-double 16 points and 10 rebounds with three blocks. A huge portion of her work came in the second half. For her efforts, Stanback was named All-Tournament.
Senior Cassie MacLeod, a 6-footer who can play up top or down low, was huge in the second half. She finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. MacLeod was also named all-tourney. Junior sharpshooter Kaylie Fandino hit some key second-half shots, and she made All-Tournament after finishing with 16 points. The only other senior on the team besides Wright, Mount Union-bound Robyn Brown (eight points, four assists in the title game), was named all-tourney after turning in four solid performances.
Freshman Valerie Higgins, another 6-footer who can play any position on the court, came off the bench to snare 10 rebounds (six points) with many in the second half that kept Carondelet to one shot possessions.
Two other girls that were key to the victory were 6-foot-2 junior Natalie Valenzuela (seven rebounds, three steals), and sophomore point guard Paige Fecske. She chipped in with some key fourth-quarter free-throws and also had six rebounds, three steals and three assists.
Despite not having anywhere near the bench of Chaminade, 22-year Carondelet head coach Margaret Gartner had her girls in the game most of the way.
“We knew their size and depth would be a problem,” Gartner remarked.
The Carondelet junior backcourt duo of Natalie Romeo and Mackenzie Cast both turned in phenomenal performances, despite each receiving a black eye from elbows earlier in the tournament.
Romeo led all scorers with 26 points and tied Wright for game high rebounding honors with 12 boards to go with a game high six steals. She had 29 points in the opening round 79-64 win over Elk Grove Pleasant Grove, then 11 points in a 68-57 victory over Brentwood Heritage and its 6-foot-3 St. Mary’s-bound post Sabrina Engelstadt, and then 32 points in a surprising 90-58 rout of Sacramento. Romeo was honored with the second-place MVP award.
Three-point specialist Cast had 14 points (four steals) and finished in double figure scoring all four games after scoring 17, 25 and 11 points in the first three contests.
For her exceptional sportsmanship throughout the tournament, plus her playing on after almost receiving a concussion from the elbow that gave her a shiner, Cast was named the Jim Capoot Memorial Award winner, given to the player that best exemplifies the qualities of sportsmanship and inspirational play Capoot demanded from his players.
Capoot, the coach of the Vallejo team that captured to 2009 CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title, and a Vallejo police officer, was killed in the line of duty in November of 2011.
Two other Cougars were named All-Tournament, 6-foot senior post Lauren Nicolosi (eight points and nine rebounds in the title game), and senior guard Amy Harioka. She hit two long three-pointers and had eight points in the loss.
Since Chaminade will not be a team that can be kicked up to the new Open Division of the CIF Southern California regional playoffs, this certainly looks like a team that could be a favorite for a CIF Division III state title in March.
In the third-place game, Sacramento (9-2) overcame a 33-19 halftime deficit to take a 65-57 decision from Berkeley. Chaya Durr (18 points) and Allie Green (14 points) were named All-Tournament.
Berkeley (4-6) had Desire Finnie (game-high 21 points) and Rachel Howard (11 points and nine rebounds) make the all-tourney team.
In one of the more interesting matchups of the Jamboree, the girls from the farming and ranching area of California, Hanford from Kings County, took on the East Coast girls from Nazareth of Brooklyn, New York.
In the end, it was the play of Bianca Cuevas, including two NBA range three-pointers in the fourth quarter, that gave the girls from Nazareth (5-1) a 57-53 victory in the fifth-place game. Cuevas, the ESPN No. 3 guard and No. 8 player in the nation from the class of 2014, finished with 18 points and was named All-Tournament after scoring 30 points with 11 assists in the first game, and then 20 points and 23 points in games two and three.
Hanford (9-4) got a game-high 25 points from Gonzaga-bound Bayli McClard. She made all all-tourney for the CIF Central Section Bullpups.
The seventh-place game went to Heritage of Brentwood. The Patriots (9-4) outlasted Deer Valley, 66-56, despite Engelstadt picking up four fouls 30 seconds into the second quarter. Junior guard Sydney Berry led all scorers with 22 points.
Junior Monique Cardenas led Deer Valley (5-6*) with 16 points.
(*not including forfeit wins)
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