Mater Dei, which was No. 1 overall in the state and nation until a loss two weeks ago to Chaminade of West Hills, finally beats the Eagles and does it this time 48-44 in the CIF SoCal Open Division championship. Go inside here for recaps of all of the SoCal girls championship games both from Long Beach and Ontario. Other winners were Serra of Gardena (D1), Keppel of Alhambra (D2), Brea Olinda of Brea (D3), Sierra Canyon (D4) and La Jolla Country Day (D5).
Note: Editor Mark Tennis wrote up the games from Colony High in Ontario (through press reports and game boxes faxed to Sacramento).
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In a matchup between two of the state’s three best teams, Mater Dei had plenty of incentive going against the only team to defeat it — so far — this season.
Chaminade had the Monarchs right it wanted them — with a 42-37 lead with two minutes to go and Gatorade National Player of the Year Katie Lou Samuelson without a field goal.
That’s when Samuelson got off the schneid — and helped her team to a CIF state championship game appearance. It will be the first for Samuelson in her Mater Dei career and the sixth overall appearance for the Monarchs’ girls program.
“If you would have told me Lou would have no field goals with two minutes to go, I would have said, ‘Good luck next week Chaminade and we would be preparing for our banquet,'” Mater Dei head coach Kevin Kiernan said. “I thought in our first two games, we actually played well, but weren’t tough enough. Tonight I don’t think we played that well, but we were mentally tough at the end.”
With 1:59 remaining, Samuelson converted a traditional 3-point play to make the score 42-40 in favor of Chaminade (27-4).
After a Mater Dei steal, Samuelson went to the line to potentially tie the game, missed one, and ‘Nade again went up by three points (44-41) on two free throws with 1:33 remaining. That’s when Samuelson found her stroke, nailing a game-tying 3-pointer with 1:06 remaining.
With 51.8 seconds remaining, Mater Dei’s Bianca Velasco made the game-winning free throws for the Monarchs.
Chaminade still had a last chance to tie the game up after senior guard Paige Fecske corralled a rebound under her own basket with under 15 seconds remaining. She drove the length of the floor — right in front of the
Chaminade bench and in front of her head coach Kelli Dimuro — but lost the ball underneath the basket before it rolled out of bounds.
“I thought we got back defensively, played tough, and played really hard,” Dimuro said.
Both teams shot poorly from the field — 26 percent for Mater Dei and 23 percent for Chaminade. Junior Leaonna Odom led Chaminade, which beat Mater Dei 64-63 in the CIFSS Open Division title game and by a point (60-59) in
late November, with 14 points. She also played tough defense on Samuelson, but made only 1-of-10 field goal attempts. Fecske added 13 points.
Samuelson (2-of-13 field goals) led Mater Dei with 16 points. The UConn-bound forward made 11-of-13 free throws. Velasco added eight points.
“Playing for a state title is something me and Katie Lou haven’t done,” Velasco said. “It’s been a dream of ours and we have one more chance to get what we want.”
In other SoCal girls finals played at The Pyramid:
Serra (Gardena) 61, Ventura 45 (OT)
The Lady Cavaliers were on the ropes, trailing 43-37 with 3:41 remaining in the fourth period, before rallying to advance to their second CIF state title game in three seasons.
There was a stalemate with Ventura leading 43-42 with just under two minutes remaining in regulation. Ventura (26-7) had a chance to get a cushion, but missed two free throws with 1:43 to go. With 50.6 seconds remaining, Serra missed two free throws and missed three more crucial shots at the line down the stretch.
Serra (23-10) made the free throw it desperately needed, however, when the Cavs’ Kenia Michael made her second attempt after grabbing an offensive rebound of teammate Briana Johnson’s charity stripe miss with 3.5 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.
It was all Serra after Ventura threw the Cavs a life line, as Serra used its speed and fast break game to completely dominate the four-minute overtime.
Serra scored the first 13 points of overtime and Ventura did not hit a field goal. Its only points of the extra period were two free throws by senior Riley Mew. The Cavs outscored Ventura, 18-2, in overtime and 24-2 to close out the game.
“When we figured out the game was going to overtime, we put it together as a team,” said Johnson, who scored a game-high 21 points despite making only 2-of-10 free throws. “We had to go to our strength, which is getting out in transition and we executed that pretty well.”
Ventura, which is now 0-3 in regional finals, losing in 2005 in Division I and in 1991 in Division II, was led by sophomore forward Aubrey Knight with 11 points and 10 rebounds. She was the Lady Cougars’ only double digit scorer.
Ventura has three underclass starters and the two senior starters are the only two 12th graders on the roster.
“I’m very proud of my team, which battled for 44 minutes,” said Ventura head coach Ann Larson. “In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, I’m extremely proud.
“I can’t say the free throws was the difference in the game. They missed some free throws, too, and we had 14 turnovers in the first half. ”
Mark Keppel (Alhambra) 48, Redondo Union (Redondo Beach) 44
The Aztecs took charge early, only to see the Sea Hawks storm back. In the end, Mark Keppel executed well enough and made the big shots to advance to the program’s first-ever CIF state final.
Keppel (26-7) took a 9-4 lead after one period of play, but Redondo Union stormed back at had a small lead in the third period. The game was tied at 36-36 entering the fourth period and the teams went back-and-forth down the stretch.
After two made free throws by Sophia Song with 1:19 remaining gave Keppel a 44-41 lead, Nao Shiota of Redondo Union (27-7) tied the game on a 3-pointer with 49 seconds remaining.
Keppel then put the ball in the hands of its best player — Lauren Saiki — and she came through to send the Aztecs to Berkeley. The 5-foot-3 senior drove to the basket and hit an off-balance lay-up with 26 seconds remaining to give her team a 46-44 lead.
Redondo Union had two opportunities to potentially tie the game or win it on its last possession, but it wasn’t meant to be. After an offensive rebound with 9.8 seconds remaining, the Sea Hawks turned the ball over and Keppel scored on a breakaway basket at the horn before celebrating its first trip to a CIF state championship game.
“The decision was on Lauren,” said Keppel coach Joe Kikuchi about the strategy on Keppel’s deciding possession. “She made that decision to take it in or dish off to the bigs. We went 0-4 in the CIFSS Open Division playoffs the past two years, but I think games like those helped us today.”
Song scored a team-high 14 points while Saiki added 13 points and four assists. Redondo Union was led by junior forward Kyra Hamlin with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Redondo Union out-rebounded Keppel, 33-17.
“We out rebounded them and we had our opportunities, there is no question about it,” said Redondo Union head coach Marcelo Enriquez.
In SoCal girls finals played at Colony High (all writeups by Mark Tennis):
Brea Olinda (Brea) 50,
El Dorado (Placentia) 46
It’s taken some coaching musical chairs, but the Ladycats earned their way back to the CIF state finals for the first time since 2009 with their win over their Crestview League rivals.
When Brea (26-4) last appeared at the state championships, head coach Jeff Sink was preparing to step down for a break. He returned to coach the Brea boys and last year came back to coach the girls.
The Ladycats, who have won nine state crowns on the girls side (more than any other school), needed to come from behind to turn back the Golden Hawks. They trailed 29-21 at halftime and needed a 19-8 surge in the fourth quarter to pull it out.
Sink, whose team was No. 13 overall in the state this week, has a roster this year with just three seniors.
One of his juniors, Reili Richardson, turned in a solid stat line with 14 points, six assists and five steals. But Sink also has one of the top freshmen in Southern California in 5-foot-11 Tyiona Watkins. She had a game-high 22 points with seven rebounds and eight steals.
El Dorado (27-9) definitely made it closer this time against Brea since the previous league losses were by 59-48 and 58-52. Its leading scorers were seniors Jalyn Jones and Brooke Salas with 19 and 15 points, respectively.
Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 49, Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) 37
The Lions were well within striking distance entering the fourth quarter, trailing by just 30-28, but couldn’t hit nearly enough shots and fell to the defending D4 state champions.
In a matchup of two teams both in the overall State Top 20, the No. 6 Trailblazers (24-5) topped the No. 17 Lions (26-7) and will now play Brookside Christian of Stockton in next week’s state final.
Kennedy Burke didn’t have a good shooting game for Sierra Canyon, but the leading all-state candidate had 10 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. Cheyanne Wallace and Gabi Nevill led the Trailblazers as both scored 14 points.
Sydney Boyer (11 points) and Katie Campbell (10 points) were the leading scorers for Oaks Christian.
La Jolla Country Day 75, Bishop’s (La Jolla) 56
For the second straight year, the Torreys are headed to the state finals in D5 after losing in the San Diego Section Open Division playoffs. This time, they had to beat a league and section rival that was trying to do the same thing.
La Jolla Country Day (17-11) gave up 29 points to state scoring leader Destiny Littleton, but that was still below her average and other than Layla Cunningham (16 points) other players struggled to score for Bishop’s (23-10).
Alaysia Styles, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, had a breakout game for La Jolla Country Day with 25 points, 15 rebounds and three assists. She entered the day with a reported season scoring average of 9.6 per game.
Coach Teri Bamford also received the usual strong outing from Mai-Loni Henson (15 points, 17 rebounds) and another breakout from Mariana Ecija (17 points, well above her season average).