Local girls from Bishop’s of La Jolla play with heart but to no avail as St. Mary’s repeats as 3A champions. Standout junior-to-be Bri Moore makes the big plays in the final minutes.
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Just when it looked like defending San Diego Classic 3A champion St. Mary’s of Stockton was on the ropes, the Rams looked to their leader to get them out of their funk, and just like she’s done on so many occasions before, Bri Moore took charge down the stretch to lead the Rams to a hard fought 49-43 victory over Bishop’s of La Jolla.
The 3A title game played at the RIMAC gym on the campus of UC San Diego capped a frenetic four days of girls basketball on a mid-July weekend in which more than 150 teams participated.
After getting into foul trouble in the first half and only scoring two points, Moore came on strong with her team trailing 37-25, scoring nine of her 11 points (seven steals, five assists) in the final 12 minutes, and leading the patented vise-like defense to pull out the victory.
St. Mary’s forced 13 first-half turnovers (19 total) but with Moore sitting almost half of the first 20 minutes of the running clock, the Rams only held a precarious 23-20 lead at halftime.
St. Mary’s made the first basket of the second half to take a 25-20 lead, but from there the defense concocted by Bishop’s head coach Marlon Wells, to bring up 6-foot-3 Imani Littleton to help press a pressing team, had an impact, and Bishop’s went on a 17-0 run to get the 12-point lead.
At that point, St. Mary’s head coach Tom Gonsalves re-inserted Moore, and not only did she come on personally, she re-energized the entire team, including Angel Johnson and Kat Tudor.
Seemingly as fast as the blink of an eye, Moore and Johnson scored nine of St. Mary’s next 11 points and the lead had been cut to 39-36.
When Tudor got a pass in the corner and nailed a three-pointer with 2:35 remaining, it was tied at 39-39 and the worm had turned. Tudor then hit another trey and Moore got a steal and a layup, and St. Mary’s had a 19-2 run of its own to take a 44-39 lead, and the starch was out of the local girls.
Moore and the-5-foot-8 Johnson (seven points, nine rebounds), who was assigned to guard Bishop’s star Littleton, did most of the heavy lifting all tournament, and the duo were named co-MVPs by Cal-Hi Sports, but without the sharpshooting of Tudor, the victory may never have materialized.
Tudor, an incoming sophomore that etched her name in the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book last season by hitting 112 three-pointers and shooting 50.7 percent from beyond the circle, finished 4-of-7 on treys and scored a team-high 14 points.
Bishop’s Littleton, who has seen her stock rise and the offers increase with her showing during the first half of the NCAA viewing period and her performance at the San Diego Classic, finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
“Oh man. We were so close,” lamented Wells.
Despite officiating that seemed to favor the local girls, the swarming defense and wide open offense of St. Mary’s overcame it and the Bishop’s defense.
“They took my best player (Moore) out of the game with offensive fouls but we have so many girls that can contribute,” said Gonsalves, who was given a questionable technical foul for blurting out “eight to one” on the foul count, while Bishop’s was 11 points into its big second half run.
Moore, one of the top rated guards in California from the class of 2015, had four fouls, all offensive.
“I knew what I had to do once I came back in,” said Moore.
St. Mary’s and Bishop’s, and the Girls of Summer Caravan now move on to the Cal Sparks Ballin in the Ballroom at the Westin Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nevada.
Coverage of the July 23-25 tournament will begin on Wednesday.
In the third place game, the size and speed that didn’t wear down their namesakes from Stockton in the semifinals overwhelmed La Jolla Country Day, in a 48-33 victory by St. Mary’s of Portland.
“We ran out of gas,” bemoaned Country Day head coach Terri Bamford.
St. Mary’s was led by the 17 points and 12 rebounds of Tyschal Blake, one of the top-ranked girls in the nation from the class of 2015.
Country Day got 13 points from Mariana Ecija.
The fifth place game had some adjustments in the matchups, and got mixed in with the seventh place game, as Clovis West (Fresno) played Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) instead of Grass Valley Nevada Union, which played Alhambra Mark Keppel.
The Clovis West game ended up being a nail-biter that the girls from the Valley won 42-41 in double overtime.
In the other game, Keppel’s swarming style snowed under Nevada Union in a 54-36 victory. Super sophomore to be Sophia Song was singing again, to the tune of 22 points and 13 rebounds. Flashy point guard Lauren Sakai had 12 points, six assists and six steals.
For years we’ve referred to him as just “the doctor,” and although he holds no medical license, quite often Doc Scheppler performs surgery, like he’s done in winning five CIF Division V state championships.
He had his scalpel out in the San Diego Classic 2A title game, as his Pinewood girls rolled to a 48-26 victory over Chehalis, Washington.
Leeana Bade, an incoming 5-foot-10 senior, was named the 2A Division MVP by Cal-Hi Sports. She finished with a game high 12 points.
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