California’s top two girls teams – Mater Dei of Santa Ana and St. Mary’s of Stockton – both win during Saturday’s MLK Showcase at St. Mary’s. It was a solid win for the Monarchs but more of a crazy one for the Rams. We have the scores and at least one highlight from every game.
Note: Cal-Hi Sports co-founder and editor Mark Tennis wrote up the last four games of the day beginning with Mater Dei-Miramonte. Associate editor and girls basketball editor Harold Abend wrote up the first five games, highlighted by St. Mary’s vs. Sierra Canyon.
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At one stage of the planning for this year’s St. Mary’s MLK Showcase held at St. Mary’s of Stockton, it was discussed to have the host Rams play likely preseason national No. 1 Mater Dei of Santa Ana in one of the Saturday games.
It’s good that they didn’t meet. Both played quality opponents on Saturday at Morelli Gym, both won, both stayed No. 1 in Northern and Southern California and kept alive the possibility that they’ll eventually play in the CIF Open Division state championship.
There were seven other games played during the first day of the St. Mary’s MLK Showcase with more coming on Monday (although Mater Dei is only playing in the Saturday slate).
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 67, Miramonte (Orinda) 45
Head coach Kevin Kiernan called it “one of the most solid wins of the year” after the Monarchs got major contributions from everyone in a relatively easy win over the state’s No. 7 ranked team entering the day.
Sure, everybody’s All-American, 6-foot-4 UConn-bound Katie Lou Samuelson, led the scoring with 23 points and had 13 rebounds. But on this day, Lou only made two of her signature-release 3-pointers and was more than happy defending the perimeter and helping others score.
Senior guard Andee Velasco (heading to Loyola Marymount) connected for 11 points and dished out six assists while junior Ally Rosenblum (UCLA commit) had 10 points and five rebounds.
“For us to drive seven hours yesterday and come here to play a very good team and win like we did was great,” Kiernan said. “We didn’t have much on Miramonte other than we know Kelly (Sopak) is a great coach and they have Sabrina (Ionescu).”
All five of Mater Dei’s starters had points during a 12-2 run to start the game and the girls did a good job of keeping up the pressure and not allowing very many shots to Miramonte.
Mater Dei (17-1) then scored the final 10 points of the first quarter to take a 29-8 lead. The Monarchs also led 41-21 at half. Miramonte never got the lead cut into single digits after the early going.
“We did start slow, but (Mater Dei) had a lot to do with that,” said Sopak, whose team fell to 15-2 with its only other loss by one point to a nationally ranked team from Hawaii. “We’re a very young team and for some of our kids this was a rude awakening. But this will help. Against 90 percent of the teams we play a mistake is just a mistake. Here, it costs you points.”
Ionescu, last year’s State Sophomore of the Year, did her best to keep the score competitive with some twisting layups. She finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and three assists.
Kiernan and his team traveled to the HoopHall Classic in Massachusetts during MLK weekend last year and said it’s been an every-other-year trip. The Monarchs already were in their vans and heading back home on I-5 by the time the next game at St. Mary’s had reached halftime.
St. Mary’s (Stockton) 85, Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 77
In a battle between state No. 2 St. Mary’s and No. 6 Sierra Canyon, it was the host Rams bolting to a 34-point early third quarter lead, and then holding off a furious comeback by the visitors from the San Fernando Valley.
St. Mary’s (15-1) had five girls in double figure scoring led by junior star Mi’Cole Cayton with 17 points, plus six rebounds, four steals and three assists. Three-point specialist and fellow junior Kat Tudor nailed three shots from beyond the arc and finished with 16 points.
Freshman sensation Aquira DeCosta was a bit under the weather according to St. Mary’s head coach Tom Gonsalves, and got into early foul trouble as well, but still managed a double-double 11 points and 11 rebounds.Sophomore Naje Murray, who could be a star on most teams, had a strong performance off the bench to chip in with 11 points and four steals. Carlissa Shipp, one of only two seniors on the 16-girl Rams squad, contributed 11 points on three 3-pointers.
Sophomore point guard Sierra Smith only had four points but she added eight assists and eight steals and was a key to St. Mary’s building a 58-24 lead that despite the huge comeback by Sierra Canyon pretty much sealed the deal.
Despite the huge deficit, defending CIF Division IV state champion Sierra Canyon (12-3) had no quit and rode the double-doubles of the senior duo of Kennedy Burke and Cheyanne Wallace in the valiant second half rally.
The UCLA-bound Burke finished with a game-high 27 points and 11 rebounds, with seven assists, four steals and three blocked shots. Of her totals, 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists came in the second half. The Loyola-Marymount-committed Wallace had 20 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, with 14 points and eight rebounds coming in the final two quarters.
“I’m not surprised one single bit that we couldn’t sustain the same pressure as the first half, and they got hot on top of it,” Gonsalves remarked. “It’s real simple. When you lose your edge on the press like we did you can have a problem.”
St. Mary’s forced 29 turnovers with 20 of them in the first half.
“Sierra Smith was the best player on the court in the first half but for some reason she went into a funk, and on top of it our energy level went down, and we didn’t share the ball as well in the second half; but we’re so young you can’t blame them. I still look at it as a good win,” Gonsalves told Cal-Hi Sports.
Burke, for her part, showed why she was chosen to be a member of the USA U17 FIBA Gold Medal winning team this past summer. She had trouble carrying the team in the first half against the vaunted St. Mary’s press, but in the second half she looked like a girl possessed.
“I think Kennedy’s slow start and the fact she had trouble getting going was a frustration factor about not being able to do it all herself,” said Sierra Canyon head coach Alicia Komaki.
Like it has done to loads of teams over the years, the St. Mary’s press had Sierra Canyon befuddled and out of its game while building the huge lead.
“We were prepared for their pressure but it’s not something you can simulate in practice,” Komaki remarked. “Because of the pressure, we just couldn’t get into our offense, and we’re not used to not being able to get in our set offense.
Despite being unable to get into the sets they wanted to, the Trailblazers played with heart in the final two quarters.
“At halftime, I told the girls if you guys want to be embarrassed than keep doing what you’re doing, but if you want to show you belong here we need to pick it up. We finally screwed our heads on,” Komaki said.
Despite the big comeback the depth of St. Mary’s was just too much for Sierra Canyon to overcome.
St. Mary’s will now face La Jolla Country Day on Monday in day two of the MLK Showcase while Sierra Canyon remains in Northern California over the weekend and faces a previous No. 3 St. Ignatius (San Francisco) team coming off a 1-1 record last week in West Catholic Athletic League play after a win over Valley Christian (San Jose) but a loss to San Francisco Sacred Heart Cathedral.
In the other games played Saturday at the St. Mary’s MLK Classic:
Lincoln (Stockton) 77, Enterprise (Redding) 54
In the 2015 MLK Showcase opener at 8:30 a.m. Lincoln (15-1) showed it could be a team to be reckoned with in the NorCal Division I playoffs after an easy victory that was not as close as the score indicates.
The Trojans led 25-6 after one quarter, 46-16 at the half, 69-30 after three quarters and 75-36 midway through the final period before head coach Chris Roemer went to all second and third stringers.
The Lincoln sophomore duo of Zahria Hendrix and Lianna Tillman pretty much stole the show. Despite limited action, Hendrix had 16 points on five three-pointers with six rebounds, four assists and four steals. Tillman added 11 points, seven assists and seven steals.
Enterprise (13-4) got a game-high 22 points from highly-regarded Kamira Sanders, but the Hornets’ guard had 12 of her points in the fourth quarter.
Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 54,
A fresh new face emerged for Mitty as sophomore guard Heleyna Hill, the daughter of former Major League Baseball player Glenallen Hill, exploded for a career-high 29 points (five steals) to lead the Monarchs to a comeback victory.
After a 16-2 Sacramento run Mitty (11-3) trailed 22-13 before a 15-2 run of its own between the late second and mid third quarters gave the San Jose girls a 28-24 lead and control of the game.
“Helayna didn’t play this summer because she had a hip-flexor issue but she’s starting to come into her own,” Mitty head coach Sue Phillips told Cal-Hi Sports. “She’s a phenomenal athlete, a tremendous worker and a great teammate, plus she has over a 4.0 GPA. She’s just a gem.”
Sacramento (9-6) was led by sophomore transfer Sasha Brown. She had a double-double 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Lynwood 56, Reno 46
Lynwood (4-6) led 39-20 at the half before coasting home against the top team from Northern Nevada. Janae Turner and Orionna Shirley led the way with 20 and 19 points, respectively.
Mallory McGwire, the 6-foot-4 junior and niece of former Major League baseball star Mark McGwire, had a huge double-double for Reno after finishing with 28 points and 20 rebounds.
Narbonne (Harbor City) 60, St. Mary’s (Berkeley) 52
Narbonne (11-5) got 22 points, six assists and five steals from senior point guard Latecia Smith in a game the girls from the Los Angeles City Section trailed 17-15 after one quarter before taking charge.
Cal-bound Ma’Ane Mosely led St. Mary’s (11-6) with a double-double 17 points and 11 rebounds.McClatchy (Sacramento) 44,
Troy (Fullerton) 41
The Warriors of Orange County had two chances to tie at the end but missed, the final attempt a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Jen Aquino that was blocked but drew the ire of Troy head coach Roger Anderson, who thought it was a foul.
McClatchy (10-5), still playing without post Destiney Lee, received a strong outing from sophomore Jordan Cruz, who scored a game-high 15 points.
Brooke Sinek and Barbara Sitanggan both had nine points to lead Troy, which dropped to 10-6 but as usual has played one of the strongest schedules in the state.
Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 65, La Jolla Country Day 48
It was a back-and-forth contest in the first half, but in the second half the Dragons pulled away.
Coach Malik McCord’s team, which put its record at just 8-7 but nonetheless still is close to being back in the State Top 20, had three players reach double-figures. Senior Aisia Robertson was in foul trouble for most of the night and fouled out but still hit for 17 points for O’Dowd. Freshman Jordan Gudger added 13 points while junior Salihah Bey had 10.
Also scoring 17 points was La Jolla Country Day’s Mai-Loni Henson as the Torreys dropped to 10-7.
Vanden (Fairfield) 73, Vista Murrieta (Murrieta) 58
After jumping into this week’s State Top 20 at No. 12, the Vikings proved that was a good move with an impressive win over the Broncos, who were No. 19.
Vanden (14-2) gave up 25 points and 22 points, respectively, to Vista standouts Jaelyn Brown and Brittney Reed but proved to have a superior starting five. The Broncos fell to 12-5 overall.
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