Girls BB: Caravan at CIFSS finals

Chaminade head coach Kelli DiMuro wasn't shy about rolling on the floor as part of dog pile after team won second straight CIFSS Open Division title. Photo: Harold Abend.

Chaminade head coach Kelli DiMuro wasn’t shy about rolling on the floor as part of dog pile after team won second straight CIFSS Open Division title. Photo: Harold Abend.

Chaminade duo dominates against Long Beach Poly in CIF Southern Section Open Division repeat while Ventura and Newbury Park win section titles for Ventura County.

AZUSA – In the end and not un-expectantly it came down to the top two teams in Southern California, and when it was all over Cal-Hi Sports state No. 5 ranked Chaminade-West Hills left no doubt as to who was the better team in a 72-63 victory over No. 4 Long Beach Poly.

With the victory in the marquee game of seven title games contested on Saturday at Azusa Pacific University, Chaminade claims a second straight CIF Southern Section Open Division championship for the girls from the San Fernando Valley.

Chaminade (27-4) will now takes the place of Poly atop all the various state rankings for SoCal teams and was assured the No. 1 seed in the Southern Regional Open Division playoffs when the placements were announced on Sunday afternoon.

Another thing that the Chaminade win solidified is the 1-2 punch of Eagle’s D1-bound stars Valerie Higgins and Leaonna Odom is more than anyone in Southern California can overcome.

Higgins, a 6-foot senior USC-bound wing finished with a game-high 24 points (five assists) with 16 points coming in the second half. Odom, a 6-2 Duke-bound wing had 23 points (five assists, team-high seven rebounds, three blocks, 2-of-2 on 3-pointers) with 21 of her points coming in a first half that saw Chaminade take control.
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“We really don’t have any competition between us to see who scores more,” remarked Odom with Higgins continuing her sentence with “but we’re definitely very competitive.”

Chaminade (27-4) used a 12-2 second quarter run to turn a 26-23 lead into a 38-25 advantage it increased to 47-29 at the half. Odom scored the Eagles first 12 points of the quarter and eventually had 17 in the second period. Of Higgins five assists, four came in the second quarter and all of them went to Odom. Of Odom’s five assists, four of them came after halftime and all went to Higgins.

“It’s about whoever put the team on their back,” Odom remarked. “In this game I started it and Valerie finished it.”

Another solid contributor was Mackenzy Iwahashi. The sophomore guard had 11 points and made 3-of-4 from outside the arc.

Long Beach Poly (25-4) came out smoking in the second half and a 15-2 run cut the deficit to 49-44, but Chaminade stabilized with a 9-4 run to take a 58-48 lead into the fourth quarter.

Poly scored the first field goal of the final period but a basket and one by Higgins followed by a score on a feed from Odom, and then a long 3-pointer by Iwahashi got it to 66-50 and the deal was pretty much sealed.

“We couldn’t stop Leaonna and Valerie in the first half in the man-to-man defense we like to play so we switched to zone in the second half, but even then they were just too tough to stop in the open court,” Poly head coach Carl Buggs said.

Jasmine Jones led Poly with 13 points and USC-committed Ayanna Clark added 12 points and nine rebounds.

Poly and Buggs have won six state championships since 2006 and can’t be counted out in the regionals, however.

“We’ve been in this position before,” Buggs remarked.

“The road is not over,” Jones said. “We’re sisters and we just have to pick our heads up and come together, work hard in practice and bring our A game and we’ll be all right.”

It’s still almost three weeks away, but the way Chaminade dominated Poly it was hard to not look at the even bigger picture and a possible state title tilt with St. Mary’s-Stockton, the No. 1 ranked team in the state and nation in every bona fide rankings.

“We’re going to continue on and hopefully we’ll see St. Mary’s in the state championship,” Chaminade head coach Kelly DiMuro said. “We set our goals and the biggest one of them is to beat St. Mary’s.”

Ventura dominates West-Torrance in 1-AA title game victory

Top-seeded Ventura took a 5-0 lead and never looked back against an ice cold West-Torrance in a 47-25 victory in the 1-AA game that immediately preceded the Open game.

Aubrey Knight led Ventura (22-9) with a double-double 12 points and 10 rebounds, Emily Herring had 10 points. Junior 6-2 post Barbara Rangel added nine points and 12 rebounds (four blocks) and created fits inside for a West team that was 3-of-31 from the field in the first half and only scored 10 points to 21 for Ventura.
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When asked about her impact in the paint, Rangel did not shy away from the facts.

“I always have to make a big impact because I’m a big girl,” she said with a smile.

West (25-7) ended up 7-of-51 from the field with the exception being Hayley Tanabe. She was a modest 3-of-9 from the field and 2-of-5 on 3-pointers.

“It’s our third time playing here (Azusa Pacific) and it is a change in depth perception that we’re not used to but there’s no excuses, we just didn’t adjust,” Tanabe said.

Ventura will be going to Division II in the Southern Regionals but despite being a champion was seeded lower than Open teams like Mater Dei-Santa Ana that lost two games.

“At this point you just play,” said Ventura head coach Ann Larson.

“The girls are felling pretty good about themselves right now and they’re going to do great,” continued Larson who is closing in on 400 career coaching victories since taking the Cougars’ helm in 2000.

Too much Overbeck in Newbury Park 2-AA title game victory

Newbury Park star Kayla Overbeck showed exactly why she is considered one of the top players in Southern California after a totally dominating performance in a 47-33 victory over Canyon-Canyon Country in the 2-AA championship.

The Vanderbilt-bound senior 6-foot wing registered a double-double 24 points and 18 rebounds and was unstoppable despite not connecting on four shots from outside the arc.

Canyon (24-7) was led by Talia Taufaasau with 12 points.

Newbury Park (23-10) now moves on as a champion and was given the No. 1 seed in the D3 South bracket, but that made little difference to Overbeck.

“State is everything. If we come out with the right mindset and do what we do we can get it.”

Harold Abend is the associate editor of and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend

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