Dragons avenge earlier 15-point loss with 15-point win over Windward of Los Angeles and spoil Windward’s attempt for a perfect season. Go inside for comments, instant analysis and highlights.
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Two of the three teams everyone ticketed as the likeliest possibilities to play in the first CIF Open Division girls basketball title game took the court at Sleep Train Arena on Saturday evening in a rematch of a 15-point win by Windward of Los Angeles over Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland in late December by the girls from the Southland.
This game was a complete turnaround, and the result was O’Dowd winning 60-45. The Dragons not only won the first Open Division title, but also won their second straight state championship after capturing the Division III title last year.
Despite falling behind 5-0 early, O’Dowd (30-3) took control by using 14-3 and 13-0 runs to open a 27-10 lead midway through the second quarter.
Windward (32-1) had a 12-2 run of its own to cut it to 29-22 at the half, and then a 5-1 run to open the third quarter to close to 30-27. A 10-3 O’Dowd run, however, made it 40-33 after three, and the starch was pretty much out of a Windward team with a limited roster.
“We did not come to play on December 29. We just didn’t show up,” said O’Dowd head coach Malik McCord about the loss to Windward in the title game of the Oaks Christian tournament.
This time, the Dragons’ girls not only came to play, they outplayed Windward at almost every facet of the game, crashing the boards for a 61-36 rebounding advantage, and using their bigs to deny the 3-point shooting-happy Wildcats, and forcing them into a 5-of-22 performance from outside the arc.
San Diego State-bound O’Dowd point guard and floor general Ariel Bostick led four girls in double figure scoring with 17 points (five steals, four assists). She was the hot hand from outside, connecting on 3-of-5 on three-pointers.
“Hitting outside shots opened up a lot of stuff inside,” Bostick remarked.
Cal-bound 6-foot-2 power forward K.C. Waters was a dominant force inside and finished with 12 points and 20 rebounds. The other two big girls, 6-foot-4 Virginia Tech-committed Breanna Brown had 10 points and 14 rebounds, and Duke-bound McDonald’s All-American, USA Team Gold Medalist and Ms. Basketball candidate, Oderah Chidom, had nine points and 12 rebounds.
“Another one of the big changes (from the first Windward game) was Breanna wasn’t starting. I even apologized to her for not starting her to begin the season,” McCord remarked. “They beat us last time rebounding. We knew we had to dominate the boards with those three trees in there and Bre is the glue we were missing.”
It wasn’t just on the boards that O’Dowd dominated. The Dragons’ physical play wore down Windward, and particularly its only big girl, Kristen Simon. Although the 6-foot-1 junior star finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds, when she fouled out with 4:56 left and her team down by nine, any chance of a Windward comeback was gone.
“They were a lot more physical than the first game,” first-year Windward head coach Vanessa Nygaard remarked. “Their physicality combined with more depth than us, and their athleticism, was the difference. Our speed was neutralized.”
Windward star guard and Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year leading candidate Jordin Canada (game-high 19 points, seven rebounds, two assists) wasn’t slowed much by O’Dowd, but she couldn’t do it herself and her low assist total was due to her teammates’ inability to finish against the Dragons’ big front line on passes she made.
“We played with a lot of heart but their physicality got to us,” remarked the junior that is considered by many girls’ basketball analysts as the top point guard in the country.
Windward senior guard and USC-bound Courtney Jaco came into the game with 142 3-pointers this season and 408 for her career, but McCord had a game plan devised to thwart her by using the big girls to guard her on the perimeter.
The result was after going for 26 points on 6-of-12 shooting from outside the circle against Mater Dei in the Southern Regional championship, Jaco finished with three points against O’Dowd on 1-for-8 from beyond the arc and 1-of-12 shooting overall.
“Their physicality got to me,” Jaco said. “They had a good game plan and I have to respect that.”
It was a game plan McCord and his coaches worked hard to develop.
“We lost so much sleep this week. If I see another film of Windward, I’ll pass out.”
The only thing that was passed out to O’Dowd was championship medals for the girls, and a state championship plaque for the school’s trophy case.
Note: Bishop O’Dowd’s win prevented Southern California schools from sweeping the six state titles given out over the weekend in girls basketball. The South’s five winners earlier were Sierra Canyon (D5), Serra of Gardena (D4), Alemany of Mission Hills (D3), Lynwood (D2) and Long Beach Poly (D1).
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Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend