Open Division Semifinals: Public schools come up big as Nos. 1 and 2 ranked teams, both top seeds and all four hosts fall
Three of the top four and four of the top six ranked teams went down to defeat in the Open Division semifinals on Tuesday night.
Not only that, but despite the cries about public schools not being able to compete with the private schools, three of the four teams remaining, and both of the Southern Regional finalists, are public schools.
In a night that saw state No. 1 Windward, No. 2 Mater Dei, and No. 4 Berkeley St. Mary’s fall by the wayside, the most interesting upset came in Concord.
Miramonte bounces Carondelet
In a game played at De La Salle, and with the Cal-Hi Sports Caravan amongst those in a overflow crowd, upstart, dark horse, sleeper, or anything else you want to call Miramonte of Orinda, established itself as a force to be reckoned with, in a 92-87 victory over host Carondelet.
Despite being led by a sophomore, State Sophomore of the Year leading candidate Sabrina Ionescu, the Mats are into the Northern Regional Open title game, and are one step away from playing for the only state championship that really counts anymore.
Ionescu, a member of the USA U16 team that won a Gold Medal last summer, started cold. At halftime she had nine points and was only 2 of 12 from the field, but Carondelet was even icier and the Mats had a 43-40 lead. She had 10 points in the third quarter but Carondelet climbed back to take a 64-63 lead entering the final period.
In the fourth quarter the 5-foot-11 Ionescu had 16 of her game high 35 points, including the team’s final eight points and final six on free-throws after Carondelet made it 86-85 with 48 seconds remaining. Her last free-throw gave Miramonte (30-1) its largest lead at 92-85 before subs entered and Carondelet scored a basket at the buzzer.
“I have the green light, so I have to keep pushing through my misses. So I just kept pushing,” said Ionescu, who had 31 points, nine rebounds and three assists in a 94-79 opening round win at St. Mary’s of Stockton.
Senior guard Mariah Seals came up big just like she did in the St. Mary’s win. This time she sliced and diced her way to 21 points that also included three fourth quarter three pointers.
“I just wanted to make some shots for my team,” said the 5-4 senior point guard. “They put me in a position to do it and I was able to knock them down.”
Miramonte senior Mariah Seals duplicated her effort off the bench in Stockton St. Mary’s win with 21 points against Carondelet.
Loyola Marymount-bound Mats center Breanna Alford only had eight points but she was a huge presence in the paint with a game-high 13 rebounds.
Another Loyola Marymount-commit, Makenzie Cast, led Carondelet (28-4) with 21 points. Nebraska-bound Natalie Romeo had 20 points, but she never found her shooting touch and finished 6-of-20 from the field, although a three-point shot with 1:21 left closed the gap to 84-83. From there however, was when Ionescu basically took over.
Now, after thinking they had to beat Bishop O’Dowd in the CIFNCS Division III championship to qualify for the Open Division, the twist has turned. The disqualification of O’Dowd and the Mats NCS D3 title, coupled with the two biggest victories in school history, has propelled Miramonte into the Saturday 6 p.m. NorCal title game at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. They now face a Salesian team that beat them 74-56 at the MLK event at Kentfield Marin Catholic.
“Once we found out we were in the Open Division I told the kids we can win this thing. We have the team,” Mats head coach Kelly Sopak told Cal-Hi Sports.
And how will Miramonte turn it around against Salesian.
“In that game against Salesian we didn’t prepare well, I didn’t coach well, and the result is the girls didn’t play well,” Sopak remarked. “To beat Salesian the kids will have to play better which means I have to prepare and coach them better.”
Etiwanda edges Windward
When asked for predictions I refuse, but with respect to Etiwanda and its five D1 signees, I told folks during the week the key was USC-bound Amy Okonkwo. When the 6-foot-1 wing is on her game Etiwanda can beat anyone.
On Tuesday in the Southern Regional Open Semis, Okonkwo and Oregon-bound McKynzie Fort combined to help produce a 49-48 victory.
Okonkwo had a team-high 21 points and outplayed fellow USC-bound Windward post Kristen Simon, allowing Etiwanda head coach Anders Anderson the ability to use more girls to cover Windward’s UCLA-bound star Jordin Canada. Fort, who was one of a multitude of girls surrounding Canada, finished with 18 points.
Canada led Windward (24-3) with a game-high 23 points but she earned them all.
“Amy wanted to guard her twin (Simon) and we had Daeja (6-foot-3 Cal State Fullerton-bound Daeja Smith) to help,” Anderson said by phone Wednesday. “That left us with four girls to guard Canada and we needed them all, and 10 fouls.
Despite being the visiting team, Etiwanda (22-6) led throughout, 16-14 after the first quarter, 29-24 at halftime and 42-37 after three quarters. Canada and the Windward defense orchestrated a fourth quarter comeback, but when the McDonald’s All-American’s potential game winning shot at the buzzer banged off the rim the celebration for Etiwanda began.
Etiwanda now faces Long Beach Poly at 6 p.m in the SoCal Open title game at Citizen’s Business Bank Arena in Ontario.
Poly routs Mater Dei
The three losses Long Beach Poly (25-3) had suffered were to Mater Dei in the TOC and twice to Windward.
That was all reversed when Poly took control from the very beginning, and despite being the visiting team, the Jackrabbits put the game away after halftime with a dominant defensive effort that produced a 64-46 victory over the sluggish hosts. Mater Dei scored just 13 points in the second half, and only had three field goals.
“I think we saw that they don’t shoot so well when you’re in their face, and we put the pressure on them,” Poly guard Arica Carter told Mike Guardabascio of Gazettessports.com. The Louisville-bound Carter had 11 points including a pair of big three-pointers in the first half to put the Jackrabbits up early.
Poly post Lajahna Drummer seems to finally be hitting her stride and no one Mater Dei put on her could do the job. The 6-foot-3 UCLA-bound Drummer finished tied for game-high with 17 points and also snagged nine rebounds.
Katie Lou Samuelson, who was recently named the Gatorade State Player of the Year, led Mater Dei (26-3) with 17 points, but the aggressive defense of Poly bothered her and Lou was only 4-of-14 from the field.
Fifth time a charm for Salesian
Meeting a fifth time in one season is enough of a twist.
In what was an even stranger twist, and in a game originally scheduled for El Cerrito High, Salesian (29-6) routed league rival St. Mary’s 61-42 on St. Mary’s home court. It was the fourth victory in five outings for the Pride against their arch-rivals.
When the El Cerrito scoreboard would not work the game had to be shifted St. Mary’s where Salesian had never played in the four years of the current senior class. All previous meetings had been double-headers with the boys at Albany High or playoff games at neutral courts that met the attendance requirements.
The switch caught Salesian off guard and they fell behind 7-0 early, but a 19-5 run gave them a 19-12 lead that became 27-20 at the half. St, Mary’s closed to 34-32 with 3:17 left in the third quarter, but a 9-0 Salesian run pretty much sealed the deal.
Louisville-bound Mariya Moore led Salesian with game-highs of 23 points and 15 rebounds, with 16 of her points coming in the second half. Sophomore sister Minyon Moore had a breakout game. She had 15 points with eight in the first half.
Cal-bound Mikayla Cowling led St. Mary’s (27-8) with 18 points. Fellow Cal-commit and teammate Gabby Green, a McDonald’s All-American along with Cowling and Mariya Moore, was in foul trouble for much of the second half and finished with five points, all in the first half.
The result of all the Tuesday turmoil is the new pecking order going into the Regional finals has the Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits hopping to the top.