Bishop’s of La Jolla beats rivals for slot in 3A title game vs. St. Mary’s of Stockton. Breakout players from other teams also are emerging.
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Just like in a long distance race, in a grueling four-day, six-game girls basketball tournament, there comes a point when the finish line comes into view, with one last burst of energy needed to complete the task.
The second straight day with two games in the 3A Division of the San Diego Classic had a couple of unique twists before the finalists were decided.
The semifinalists were comprised of two teams from La Jolla, each within shouting distance of RIMAC Arena that have a civil but intense arch-rivalry – and two teams named after the same Saint, but from different states and 650 miles apart.
The first semifinal matched the two teams from La Jolla that will meet a few times in the upcoming season, perennial small school powers La Jolla Country Day and The Bishop’s School.
In a game that was back-and-forth the final six minutes, Bishop’s came away with a 39-38 victory after incoming sophomore Layla Cunningham banked in a three-pointer with 31 seconds left for the game’s final points.
Country Day had two opportunities to win the game in the final seconds, but the solid defense of Bishop’s sealed the deal.
Bishop’s had the early advantage but Country Day ended the first half on a 12-2 run to take a 22-16 halftime lead.
The Torreys stretched it to 30-20 but Bishop’s stormed back to tie it at 34-34 behind the play of non-related Imani Littleton and Destiny Littleton, and a lock-down defense that took Country Day out of its game.
Imani Littleton, a 6-foot-3 post that has been impressive all tournament, and has offers from Tennessee, Texas A&M, Oregon, Oregon State, St. John’s and San Diego State, finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds. In the quarterfinals, she had 27 points and 16 rebounds in a 47-36 victory over Clovis West.
Destiny Littleton, a 5-foot-9 incoming freshman that has been one of the top three in her class the Girls of Summer Caravan has seen so far in its travels, had 10 points, five assists and five steals.
Country Day got 13 points and nine rebounds from UC Santa Barbara-bound incoming senior Sabrina Callahan, and 13 points, seven rebounds and five steals from incoming sophomore star Mai-Loni Henson.
“The Bishop’s win over Country Day was definitely the best game of the tournament so far. It was anyone’s game right to the end,” said Tournament Director Wade Vickery.
Although it wasn’t as close, the game between the two namesakes, defending 3A champion St. Mary’s (Stockton) and St. Mary’s Academy of Portland (Oregon), was almost as exciting as the Bishop’s win over Country Day, and was full throttle the entire 40-minute running clock contest.
The girls from Portland had size and speed, but the maniacal, swarming defense of the California girls was just too much for the short-handed girls from Oregon, and St. Mary’s of Stockton took a 50-38 victory in a game it never trailed and was tied only once at 2-2 early on.
Once again it was Angel Johnson taking front and center. The 5-foot-8 incoming sophomore finished with team highs of 11 points and eight rebounds. Plus, she had the job of guarding the paint against highly regarded Portland St. Mary’s solidly-built 6-foot incoming junior star Tyschal Blake.
Blake, a member of the Full Court Press Top 50 watch list for players from 2015, got her points and rebounds (19 points and 12 rebounds) but after she scored to cut the lead to 40-33, Johnson and company held her scoreless the rest of the game.
“I like it,” responded Johnson when asked about going up against a wide body like Blake. “I have to go at it the same each game no matter how big they are.”
“We’re missing a couple of girls but we just didn’t play well. Too many turnovers,” said St. Mary’s Academy head coach Art Rojas.
Part of the reason for all those turnovers was the defensive play of the fabulous underclass players St. Mary’s head coach Tom Gonsalves has to compliment incoming junior star Bri Moore, Johnson and incoming sophomore Kat Tudor.
Moore finished with eight points, eight steals and four assists, while Tudor had an off night shooting, but still played great defense and finished with nine points and five steals
Sierra Smith (2017), Naje Murray (2017), Zahria Hendrix (2017), Sydney Fadal (2016) and Mi Cole Cayton (2016) all played a part in a defense that forced 26 turnovers in a 40-minute game
A girl that has been very impressive in the two games she’s been observed is 15-year old incoming Grass Valley Nevada Union 5-foot-11 junior Sammy DeHart.
After her team finished second in its Pool and then lost to St. Mary’s (Portland) in the quarterfinals, DeHart had a breakout game in a 51-42 win over Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills, finishing with 20 points and 12 rebounds.
Shout Out Time
The completion of action in Day 3 is the time to say thank you to those that made the stop by the Girls of Summer Caravan at the San Diego Classic a reality.
A big shout out goes to Tournament Director Wade Vickery and his hard-working family, including wife Nancy Vickery and son Adam Vickery.
Another shout out goes to the Sheraton Mission Valley and Sales Manager Jonathan Elko in particular, for helping sponsor the Caravan.
For complete brackets, additional information about the tournament, and updated results for all three divisions and 166 teams, please visit SanDiegoClassic.com.
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend