By Harold Abend
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The Cal-Hi Sports Caravan ventured to Orange County for the Nike Extravaganza at Mater Dei on Friday, and then just down the road to San Juan Capistrano for the six-game P.A.W. Division IV Showcase at JSerra on Saturday.
Each of the events had a team that could very well meet in the first CIF Southern California Open Division title game — Mater Dei of Santa Ana at the Nike Extravaganza and Windward of Los Angeles at the P.A.W. Showcase.
Here are highlights from each of the games witnessed:
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 74, Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) 46
Country Western legend Johnny Cash wrote a song about “a boy named Sue,” but in Santa Ana at Mater Dei the buzz around the Cal-Hi Sports’ top-ranked girls basketball team is all about “a girl named Lou.”
The marquee game and nightcap of the boys and girls Friday session of the 18th Nike Extravaganza saw host Mater Dei (23-0) come out hitting the 3-point shot right from the start, in a game that didn’t start until 10:20 and ended at nearly midnight.
After slightly spraining her knee in a win last weekend over JSerra, and being held out of a Tuesday blowout at Santa Margarita, 2011 State Freshman of the Year Katie Lou Samuelson practiced for the first time on Thursday and returned to the lineup against Oaks Christian.
Both Katie Lou and older sister and 6-foot-1 senior Stanford-bound Karlie Samuelson hit two 3-pointers in a first quarter that saw the Monarchs take a 20-10 lead and never look back.
When Mater Dei’s outstanding sophomore point guard Andee Velasco (game-high 20 points) scored the game’s first two baskets, “Lou,” as family and teammates call Katie Lou, a 6-foot-3 wing that’s ranked No. 1 by ESPN at her position and No. 2 overall in the nation, hit a long 3-pointer. Karlie then followed with a trey, a basket, and another bomb from outside the arc – and when Lou buried one from NBA-range the rout was on.
“My mom just kept calling me Lou,” said the baby of the three Samuelson sisters grinning. “I only get Katie Lou when I’m in trouble.”
And how often is that?
“Only when she shoots badly,” joked Mater Dei head coach Kevin Kiernan, who has led the Monarchs to three straight CIF Division I state championships.
It’s not like Lou was some kind of new-found secret last season. In fact, when her oldest sister, Bonnie Samuelson, was named a Cal-Hi Sports Sate Athlete of the Week three years ago, the buzz around Orange County at that time was that the 5-foot-11 seventh grader might very well be the best of the three sisters.
Bonnie is a great player, and Karlie is good enough to follow her to Stanford next season, but Lou is the complete package. She’s not there yet, but her length and speed, and ability to handle the ball, plus her deadly long-range shooting, in some ways reminds the Cal-Hi Sports Caravan of Elena Delle Donne, a national sensation several years ago. Plus, Lou has grown four inches in three years, and supposedly may add another inch or two.
Velasco led the scoring against Oaks Christian, and Lou and Karlie added 15 and 13 points, respectively, but Mater Dei is not a one, two or three-girl team, and everyone likes to shoot the three.
Kiernan sent in 18 girls against Oaks Christian and 11 scored. Overall, the team shot 58.8 percent (30-of-51) and the Monarchs were 10-of-20 from outside the arc.
“We’re going to shoot that three whether it goes in or not,” Kiernan remarked. “This is a different team and our shooting spreads the floor and opens up other things for us.”
Another long-range bomber, Meghan McIntyre, hit three NBA-range 3-pointers, and led Oaks Christian (17-6) with 14 points.
Windward (Los Angeles) 59, JSerra (San Juan Capistrano) 48
The marquee contest of the six-game P.A.W. Division IV Showcase at JSerra on Saturday saw the host Lions play very well but in the end it was just too much of Windward’s Jordin Canada.
The way she took over in the game’s final 10 minutes, it’s hard to argue with some girls basketball experts that feel Canada may not just be the best junior guard in the nation, but the best player in the country at any position and from any class.
With the score tied 36-36, and with two minutes left in the third quarter, the 5-foot-7 point guard led a 13-2 run that iced the game. She only scored two of her game-high 24 points during the run, but she had four of her seven steals and four of her seven assists in the span.
Junior Kristen Simon had a little trouble early with the big front line of JSerra, but Windward’s 6-foot-1 post got loose in the second half to finish with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Sophomore point guard Coco Miller led JSerra (18-6) with 16 points (including three 3-pointers), and her backcourt mate, August Touchard, added 15 points, but other than some points after the deal was sealed, the two were held in check down the stretch by the defense of Canada, and USC-bound senior guard Courtney Jaco.
“We might play them but we’re not thinking about Mater Dei. We’re just looking to play our game,” remarked Canada when asked about the possibilities of a SoCal Open Division finals’ matchup with the Monarchs.
“I have great players so preparing for the playoffs I want to keep them sharp, try some new things and get them some new looks that haven’t been scouted,” said former Stanford and WNBA star, and first-year Windward head coach Vanessa Nygaard.
St. Mary’s (Berkeley) 40, Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 38
St. Mary’s (20-4) overcame a sluggish performance and horrid overall shooting to squeak out a win on Friday afternoon at the Nike Extravaganza.
With the score tied 35-35 and with 1:36 left to play, junior phenom Gabby Green (15 points, seven steals, six rebounds) took over on both ends of the court and scored her team’s final five points.
Elexis Goodwin added a double-double 15 points and 16 rebounds, but she was 1-for-7 from the field in the first half.
The Panthers, ranked sixth in the state, shot an ice cold 4-of-34 in the first half, but despite the tepid shooting they only trailed 20-16 after two quarters.
The second half wasn’t much better, as St. Mary’s finished 13-of-67 (19.4 percent) from the field overall and 0-for-10 from 3-point range.
“We flew down this morning and everyone was tired,” Green said. “You could tell in the warm-ups this was going to be a long day.”
Sierra Canyon (16-8) got a game-high 20 points and 13 rebounds from sophomore Kennedy Burke.
St. Bernard (Playa del Rey) 56, La Jolla Country Day (La Jolla) 48
La Jolla Country Day had the best player on the floor in Washington-bound Kelsey Plum (18 points, seven rebounds) but St. Bernard was the deeper and better team, in a victory at the P.A.W. Showcase that wasn’t really as close as the score indicates.
Early on, it was back-and-forth until St. Bernard (21-6) used a 20-2 run that turned 22-21 lead into a 42-23 advantage late in the first half.
With La Jolla Country Day (10-11) down 16 points with three minutes left, Plum led a run that made it respectable.
Junior 6-foot-2 post Chenelle Pelle had a monster double-double 12 points and 16 rebounds. Fellow junior Michelle Curry also had a double-double and finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds. A third junior, leading scorer Chyanne Butler, finished with a team-high 17 points, with six rebounds and four assists.
The game was really decided in the paint and particularly on the glass where St. Bernard enjoyed a 39-22 advantage.
The Vikings continue to play without star 6-foot-2 junior Lajahna Drummer, but according to head coach Bo Corona the possibility exists she could return for the playoffs from a knee injury.
“It’s a woulda, coulda, shoulda since we scheduled very tough, but if they (Drummer and injured 6-foot-2 junior Emoni Jackson) can come back, we could make some noise in the playoffs,” Corona told Cal-Hi Sports. “Lajahna is waiting to get her brace and we’ll see how it feels, but we wont rush her back so if it’s not this season she’ll be back next year.”
Mater Dei (Chula Vista) 64, St. Anthony’s (Long Beach) 44
In Game 4 at JSerra on Saturday evening, it was all Mater Dei in a battle of intersectional D4 opponents.
Down 7-2 early, Mater Dei (15-5) used a 14-2 run to take a 16-9 first quarter lead in a game that was never close after that.
Junior 5-foot-10 guard and D1 prospect Kandiss Barber led Mater Dei with 21 points and nine rebounds. University of San Diego-bound 6-foot-1 senior forward Alexandria Young added 20 points, nine rebounds and five steals.
Duke-bound 6-foot-4 center Kendall Cooper was in foul trouble early, but still led St. Anthony (13-10) with 14 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
Orange Lutheran (Orange) 56, Rialto 25
In the first girls game on Friday at 2:30 p.m. in Santa Ana, the Lancer girls fell behind 5-0 and 9-5 before going on a 30-4 run that finished it early.
The senior backcourt duo of Abbey Goodsell and Jessica Salottolo led Orange Lutheran (21-3) with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
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