By Mark Tennis
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The trifecta of beating Long Beach Poly, Mater Dei of Santa Ana and then Santiago of Corona to win the CIF Southern Section Division IAA championship just wasn’t meant to be for the Etiwanda girls basketball team.
The Eagles, who upset Mater Dei, ranked No. 1 in the state since December, in last Tuesday’s semifinals in overtime, fell to Santiago 70-65 in Friday’s championship at the Anaheim Convention Center.
According to tweets from several on the scene, including Eric-Paul Johnson of the Riverside Press-Enterprise and Steve Galluzzo of the L.A. Times (we were watching games instead in Sacramento), both teams went on runs in the second half that set up a dramatic ending.
After a turnover in the game’s last 10 seconds, Etiwanda had a chance to tie the score at 68-68 on a 3-point shot by Cherice Harris. The shot missed, another rebound attempt failed and Santiago’s Jada Williams was fouled. She then stepped to the free throw line with 2.8 seconds left and sealed the win with a pair of free throws.
Top scorers in the game were Chrishae Rowe and Shiana Carrington of Santiago with 25 and 20 points, respectively, while Amy Okonkwo had 14 points and 12 rebounds for Etiwanda.
Santiago already was eligible for the new CIF Open Division for next week’s Southern California regional playoffs and with the win may get consideration for the top seed, although CIFSS Division IV-AA champ Windward of Los Angeles is unbeaten and has been ranked higher overall.
Etiwanda can still decide to petition the CIF to be moved up into that division as well, but does not meet the criteria to be moved up and with the loss is likely going to try to bounce back and win the Division I state title.
If Etiwanda isn’t in the open division, the four CIFSS teams moving up in addition to Windward and Santiago will be Mater Dei and perhaps Troy of Fullerton. Troy’s playoff loss also was to Santiago (in the other Tuesday semifinal) and the Warriors also have a recent win over Long Beach Poly.
In other CIFSS girls finals played Friday at the Anaheim Convention Center:
Division 1A: Canyon Springs (Moreno Valley) 47,
Bishop Amat (La Puente) 46
In the play of the day at the CIFSS girls finals, senior guard Ashleigh Sparks caught an in-bound pass and raced the length of the floor for a layup at the buzzer to give the Cougars the victory.
Canyon Springs only improved to 20-9 with the win, but most of those losses are to higher-ranked teams. Coach Gail Hale’s team also has some quality wins, such as those against Narbonne of Harbor City (CIF L.A. City Section favorite) and Clovis West of Fresno (CIF Central Section finalist).
Division 2AA: Lynwood 61, J.W. North (Riverside) 51
The Knights beat the Huskies for the second straight season in the final of this division, but they hope history is not repeated in the regional playoffs when they were defeated and J.W. North ended up in the D2 state final.
Priscilla Lopez tossed in 15 points for Lynwood, which should be the top seed in D2 South playoffs if Ridgeview of Bakersfield (won CIF Central Section D2 title on Friday) ends up lifted into the open division. Priscilla Brooks led J.W. North with 20.
Division 2A: Murrieta Valley (Murrieta) 49.
Culver City 37
Look for the Nighthawks (26-5) to get a spot in the next D2 state top 10 divisional rankings after they topped the Centaurs to win their first section title. Aliah Marshall had a team-high 14 points for Murrieta Valley, which pulled away by making 8-of-10 free throws in the game’s last minute.
In the Friday CIF Sac-Joaquin Section championships at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento:
D3 Boys: Modesto Christian 66,
Sierra (Manteca) 54
The Crusaders have now won section titles in four of the five CIF Sac-Joaquin divisions (D1, D3, D4 and D5) after they pulled away from the Timberwolves in the final game of the day at Sleep Train.
The division that was on the minds of many, however, as it relates to Modesto Christian after this game was the new CIF Northern California Open Division. Although the team doesn’t look like it’s on the same level this season as NorCal heavyweights Salesian of Richmond, Sheldon of Sacramento and Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, the players will be more than happy to be part of the historic bracket and said they’d rather play the toughest competition possible instead of being in Division III and having better odds at going further.
“I can speak for everyone that we want to be in the open,” said senior T.J. Wallace, who led the team in scoring with 19 points. “That’s been our goal from the beginning, to be in the top-notch division. In my mind, I believe we’re an elite team and can compete with anyone.”
Sophomore Anthony Townes, another of the squad’s top players, added: “It doesn’t matter which division but we know we could play in the open division and I think we could make it a contest against any of those teams. We have a lot of talent and we’d be ready.”
D3 Girls: Christian Brothers (Sacramento) 61,
Vanden (Travis AFB) 56
Both teams went into this week’s D3 state rankings and the higher-ranked Falcons emerged with the win. And with top D3 teams in the north like Bishop O’Dowd and Miramonte seemingly on their way to the open division, this is one team that could take advantage in the upcoming D3 NorCal playoffs.
Junior guard Alicia Gonzalez, with her Clark Kent glasses belying her ability to knife through the defense for layups, led coach Ron Gully’s team with 18 points. Senior guard Niel Valmores, who was injured earlier in the season when many of CBS’ seven losses took place, had 15 points.
Vanden, which lost in a section final for the fourth time in four tries, never completely recovered after falling behind 15-7 in the first quarter. The Vikings’ top scorers were Mariah Williams with 17 points and Toni Taylor with 16.
D5 Boys: Capital Christian (Sacramento) 40,
Brookside Christian (Stockton) 39
This matchup between top 10 state-ranked teams in Division V was decided on a free throw with 0.07 seconds left by junior guard Tyler Jennings. He was fouled during a scramble for a loose ball.
After making that free throw, Jennings missed the second on purpose. Brookside Christian was only able to get off a 70-foot heave at the buzzer.
The Cougars, who won their second straight D5 section title, feature two impressive grid-hoopers on their roster. Sophomore Trey Belton, a 6-foot-6, 220-pounder who plays defensive end in football, had a team-high nine points and a team-high 11 rebounds. Junior Nifae Lealao, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound offensive tackle in football with Division I college interest, had seven points and six rebounds.
D5 Girls: Brookside Christian (Stockton) 72,
Capital Christian (Sacramento) 28
The Knights, ranked No. 1 in D5 and defending state champions, raced to a 28-4 lead after the first quarter and were never threatened. Junior guard Tiara Tucker topped the scoring with 24 points and came up with nine steals.
In CIF San Diego Section finals played Friday at Viejas Arena:
D1 Girls: Granite Hills (El Cajon) 55,
Rancho Buena Vista (Vista) 44
Hard-charging Skylar Williams knocked down 17 points and hauled in seven rebounds as the Vaqueros captured their first section title after losing by 20 in the 2012 finals. Jenny Dee was delightful for RBV with 18 points and 14 rebounds.
D2 Girls: La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) 56,
Serra (San Diego) 52
Although the Mavericks came into the game at 29-2 and Serra was 26-7, this was an upset because Serra was the defending champion, had an earlier win over La Costa Canyon and had played a stronger schedule.
None of that matters now, however, as 6-foot-5 Savannah Irwin had a dominant performance for the Mavericks. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, she had 21 points, 22 rebounds and blocked six shots.
D4 Boys: Army-Navy (Carlsbad) 56,
Mater Dei Catholic (Chula Vista) 50
Junior guard Devin Watson came up with steal and layup with 38 seconds left to push the Warriors past the Crusaders. Watson finished with 22 points and had 15 in the second half. Army-Navy improved to 27-4 and won its first section title since 1986. The team also has been ranked second overall in the section according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
D4 Girls: La Jolla Country Day (La Jolla) 49,
Bishop’s (La Jolla) 39
McDonald’s All-American Kelsey Plum was hampered with early foul trouble and scored just 19 points, but freshman teammate Mailoni Hensen came through with 20 as the Torreys won their fourth straight section championship.
Despite having 11 losses on the season overall, LJCD still seems like it will be taken up to the new CIF Open Division for Southern California during Sunday’s selection meeting. Almost all of those losses are to highly state-ranked opponents and several of those games – especially when the team played St. Mary’s of Stockton and Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland in January – were close.
D5 Boys: Horizon (San Diego) 53,
Foothills Christian (El Cajon) 37
Watch out for the Panthers in the upcoming D5 regional playoffs. They have won D4 state titles before and are a team with several football players, which means slow starts to a basketball season can be common. Markel Byrd, who is bound for Eastern Washington to play football, had 10 points and eight rebounds for Horizon.
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