By Mitch Stephens
LOS ANGELES – There were three heart-stoppers in the girls ranks, but otherwise the CIF Southern Regional basketball championships were rather bland.
Bland, in the 2008 Academy Awards Show kind of way.
Like always, there were plenty of stars to see and show-stopping moments, but basically everything went according to plan, especially among the boys.
Heavily-favored and nationally-ranked squads Dominguez (Division I), Mater Dei (D-II), Santa Margarita (D-III) and Campbell Hall (D-IV) all won handily, with the slight exception of Dominguez which just seemed more in control throughout.
The nation's No. 3 girls squad Long Beach Poly won by double-digits, but it took overtime to do it, barely escaping a talented and determined Narbonne squad, ranked eighth nationally.
The best game of the day undoubtedly was Mira Costa's triple-overtime thriller over Ayala in Division III. There had never been a girls overtime game in Regional finals play, but those two teams made up for it with a spirited and remarkable game. Magnolia's 40-39 triumph over Muir in Division in D-III was also memorable.
We were at the "historic" Los Angeles Sports Arena for Division I-III games and picked up reports from the Los Angeles Daily News and San Diego Union-Tribune on the D-IV and V games that were played at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana.
If you want previews, match-ups and predictions of each regional play throughout the state, click HERE and for North Regional results, click HERE.
Dominguez (Compton) 83, King (Riverside) 74
The complete transformation and coronation of Jordan Hamilton and his Dominguez Dons is one win from being complete.
The Dons, other than Hamilton, a 6-foot-8 multi-talented forward who is considered one of the top 10 juniors in the country, aren’t gushing with blue chip recruits like most nationally-ranked teams.
But with Hamilton leading the show – he had another huge night Saturday with game-highs of 29 points and 12 rebound – and a true supporting cast filling every crack, the Dons improved to 32-3 while winning their eighth South Region title with a controlled win over upstart King (32-3).
“We just find a way and get it done,” Hamilton said. “We have a great coach (Russell Otis), we play hard and we know how to win.”
Dominguez shot a blistering 56 percent from the field (31 of 55) and got 16 points by the team’s lone big senior contributor, 6-1 lightning rod guard Bryce Cartwright. Myron Green, a 6-4 junior, who played just 20 minutes before fouling out had 12 points and Thurman Woods, a fast-developing 6-5 junior, added 10 points and seven rebounds in 12 minutes.
It all helped offset the terrific duo of Kawhi Leonard, a sharpshooting 6-7 forward, and Eric Wise, a 6-6 low block senior, had 23 points apiece for King, which upset Los Angeles City and national powers Westchester 77-75 and Taft 83-82 on Tuesday and Thursday respectively.
The Wolves might have had fatigue as an excuse, but Dominguez was coming off its own minor miracle, fighting back from a late 10-point deficit to beat Fairfax (Los Angeles) 80-77 in overtime on Thursday.
The Dons now get undefeated McClymonds (Oakland) in next week's championship game at Arco Arena in Sacramento.
“We’re on a mission,” Cartwright said. “And we have one stop left.”
Considering they made just 33 percent of its shots and was outrebounded 41-35, it’s hard to figure how the Wolves stayed in the game. But they made 28 of 33 free throws, including all eight by George Fields, who had 13 points.
“We just didn’t play as much like team tonight like we did earlier this week,” Leonard said. “I’m not really sure why. Maybe it was the bright lights and big court, but we weren’t ourselves.”
Cartwright said the Dons were themselves from the start, which was key. That’s why the nation’s No. 3 team is now 32-3.
“If we get a good start, we’re usually in the house,” said Cartwright, who made 5 of 11 shots on a variety of driving and acrobatic hoops.
While Hamilton was dominate throughout, he made 9 of 16 shots, got to the free throw line 15 times (10 makes) and added five offensive rebounds, it was the consistent play of Woods and Green that helped pave the way. They combined to make 10 of 15 shots.
“We’re just really together and don’t care how we get it done,” Cartwright said. “Jordan is our constant, but everyday it’s someone new.”
Dominguez led most of the way by single digits, but stretched it to 70-59 early in the fourth following a couple free throws by Hamilton, a jumper by Cartwright and a layup from Woods. Another six points by the same trio on a putback by Woods, a driving layup from Cartwright and a putback by Hamilton made it 74-59 with 3:30 left in the game.
Though Wise and Leonard never gave in and brought the Wolves to within 79-74 in the final minute, Cartwright put it away with four straight free throws.
“We practice very hard every day and that has all paid off,” Cartwright said. “We really get after it so when we get in games it doesn’t seem like that big of deal.”
It's been a huge deal to have Hamilton this season. A transfer from Dorsey (Los Angeles), Hamilton was known a superlative talent but something of a live wire. With a lot of guidance from Otis, his composure is vastly improved and as many Southern California coaches have noted, his game is under control as well.
He lets the game come to him now instead of forcing things. That's maturity, for sure, but also having a solid and complete supporting cast around him helps.
"It makes all the difference," Hamilton said. "I have complete confidence in my teammates and I think they have it in me. It's been a win-win situation."
One more win and it the season will be complete.
Dominguez 83, King 74
King 15 19 21 19 - 74
Dominguez 19 20 21 23 - 83
KING (32-3): Fields 2 8-8 13, Lea 1 1-2 3, Campbell 3 0-0 6, Muldrow 2 2-2 6, Leonard 7 6-7 23, Wise 6 11-14 23. Totals 21 28-33 74.
DOMINGUEZ (32-3): King 1 0-0 2, Lacoste 2 1-2 5, Cartwright 5 6-8 16, Hamilton 9 10-15 29, Mandingo 1 0-0 2, Moody 2 0-0 4, Woods 5 0-0 10, Green 5 2-4 12, Turpin 1 0-0 2. Totals 31 19-29 83.
3-point goals: Fields, Leonard 3, Hamilton, Turpin. Fouled out: Campbell, Muldrow.
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 75, Edison (Fresno) 59
Mater Dei, ranked sixth nationally, made its 17th South Region final appearance. Edison made its third.
If that mismatch in experience wasn't glaring enough, when Edison 6-foot guard John Tate bodied up with 6-8 junior Andy Brown, the Monarchs (34-1) had to feel awfully good.
Mater Dei, which starts 6-10 twins David Wear and Travis Wear, took advantage of the mismatch at every instance as Brown tied for game-high honors with 21 points leading the defending state champions to their 11th regional title.
David Wear added 21 points, Travis Wear 11 and Jamaal Trice and Gary Franklin combined for 17 as the Monarchs held off a spirited Edison effort.
The Tigers (28-5), got 20 points and 10 rebounds by 6-9 junior Greg Smith, 15 points from Charunn Jones, 14 by Josh Maroney and 10 from Phillip Ward. But they couldn’t contain Brown who made 6 of 11 shots and was 9-for-11 from the foul line.
“We saw they had a 6-footer on Andy and we took advantage,” David Wear said.
Said Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight: “That’s the great thing about this group. They’re totally unselfish. They truly don’t care who scores. I’ve never come in after a game and see one of them pout because they weren’t getting enough touches or points. That allows me to coach without worrying about that kind of stuff.”
Edison, the Central Section champs made a strong run in the third quarter, cutting a 10-point halftime deficit to 40-36, but a jumper by Brown and a layup from David Wear helped stretch the lead back to 10.
Edison, even with a 35-28 edge on the boards, couldn’t keep the deficit within single digits the rest of the way as the Monarchs moved into Friday’s state championship for the sixth time in eight years at Arco Arena.
Only four Edison players scored and Jones and Maroney made nine of its 10 field goals on 3-pointers.
“There’s a reason why (Mater Dei) is so good,” Edison coach Arturo Ormond said. “We knew we had played a bad half and knew we could play better and we did. We got within four but then they made more plays than us.”
McKnight, who gushed about his team’s overall attitude, said whichever Northern California team – Mitty plays Fairfield later tonight – will have a tougher match-up than last year.
“This team is harder to defend than last year or previous years,” McKnight said. “We have more weapons. I mean who do you key on?”
All the Mater Dei players were happy to hear that Drew Gordon had returned to Mitty’s lineup. The 6-9 center who has signed to UCLA was supposedly out for the year with a broken left foot but returned to the defending NorCal champions next week.
Mitty is a prohibitive favorite to defeat Fairfield and return to the state finals after losing to Mater Dei in overtime last season.
“I’m just happy that Mitty is at full strength,” David Wear said. “If we face them it will be another great game.”
Mater Dei 75, Edison 59
Edison 11 17 12 19 – 59
Mater Dei 20 18 14 23 – 75
EDISON (28-5): Jones 5 0-0 15, Ward 4 2-2 10, Maroney 5 0-1 14, Smith 8 4-8 20. Totals 22 6-11 59.
MATER DEI (34-1): Trice 2 4-6 9, Franklin 2 2-2 8, Brown 6 9-11 21, D. Wear 9 3-6 21, Arnet 1 0-0 3, T. Wear 3 4-4 11, Schultz 0 2-2 2. Totals 23 24-33 75.
3-point goals: Jones 5, Maroney 4, Trice, Franklin 2, Arnet, T. Wear.
Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita) 67, Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 39
Instead of pouting, the Eagles (29-5) just got busy.
The Eagles, who failed to win league or section titles, won its second region title with a near perfect second half when they outscored a good Bishop Montgomery squad 37-14 and allowed just 18 percent shooting.
Klay Thompson, the son of former NBA star Mychael Thompson, had 21 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, and Zack Zaragosa drilled four second-half three-pointers, two that started the post halftime onslaught, and had 19 points as the Eagles made 51 percent of its shots and outrebounded the Knights 46-23.
Santa Margarita coach Jerry DeBusk called it the best half of the season and Thompson, a 6-6 senior point guard headed to Washington State, said it was an extremely satisfying victory. The Eagles didn’t win the Trinity League because that’s Mater Dei (Santa Ana) territory and they didn’t win the convoluted Southern Southern I-AA, losing in the semifinals to fourth-ranked (nationally) Dominguez (Compton).
The Southern Section aligns its section playoffs by league strength. The rest of the state immediately uses the Division format used by the CIF.
“We played some of the best teams in the country and came up a little short,” Thompson said. “We weren’t going to pout about it. We just had to go out and play.”
They did, turning a tight game – the Eagles led 30-25 at halftime – into a rout. UC Santa Barbara-bound Jaime Serna added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The 3-point shooting of Zaragosa seemed to really ignited the Eagles. Asked how he felt about shooting at the big arena, the 6-5 Zaragosa said: “Warming up my shots were going in so I just kept shooting. It’s what I do. It’s what I’m good at.”
The Eagles weren’t very good at practice on Friday. DeBusk said it was the worst practice of the year.
“It was like a morgue,” he said. “I was a cheerleader, trying to get them fired up. It’s just tough this time of year with all the travel. Kids are tired.”
They’ll have a week to rest up to get ready for the Sacramento for the state title at Arco Arena on Saturday.
It was a tough way to finish for Bishop Montgomery, making its fourth Regional final appearance. The Knights are now 2-2.
They got 15 points from Justin Cobbs and 10 by Aaron Ware. The duo, however, combined to make just 8 of 32 shots. It was the first time all year Bishop Montgomery scored below 40.
“We just couldn’t score,” Bishop Montgomery coach Doug Mitchell said. “Sounds simplistic but that was the difference. We’re used to scoring 70 a game, but give (the Eagles) some credit. They made it tough on us.”
DeBusk said he spent most of halftime talking about defense. It evidently paid off as Bishop Montgomery made just 5 of 27 shots in the second half. The Eagles actually made more 3-pointers (6 of 12) in the same two quarters.
“That’s the best game we played this year,” Thompson said. “I guess we picked a good time to do it.”
Santa Margarita 67, Bishop Montgomery 39
Bishop Montgomery 11 14 6 8 – 39
Santa Margarita 14 16 17 20 – 67
BISHOP MONTGOMERY (24-7): Bibbins 0 2-2 2, Cobbs 5 2-2 15, Panaggio 0 0-1 0, Atallah 1 0-0 2, Miller 1 0-0 2, Jones 3 1-2 7, Moore 0 1-2 1, Ware 3 4-8 10. Totals 13 10-17 39.
SANTA MARGARITA (29-5): Serna 5 1-2 11, K. Thompson 7 6-7 21, Pancoe 3 0-0 6, Zaragosa 6 2-2 19, T. Thompson 2 1-1 5, Sales 1 0-0 3, Johnson 1 0-0 2. Totals 25 10-12 67.
3-point goals: Cobbs 3, K. Thompson, Zaragosa 5, Sales 1. Fouled out: Serna.
Campbell Hall (North Hollywood) 76, San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno) 45
The Vikings (30-5) look very much ready to defend their state title with a thorough victory over the Central Section runner-ups as National Player of the Year candidate Jrue Holiday had 22 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and seven steals.
Dallas Rutherford added 23 points and nine rebounds for the winners, who held a 44-24 rebounding advantage and forced 18 turnovers.
Campbell Hall goes for its third state title – it also won in 2005 – in Friday’s state title game against St. Mary’s (Berkeley), the nation’s No. 23 team according to MaxPreps.
The Vikings have won 13 straight, all by 18 or more.
Mike Palmieri had 10 points for San Joaquin Memorial, which finished 26-9.
Renaissance Academy (La Canada) 55, Price (Los Angeles) 52
At Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Justin Cook scored 20 points, Deandre Daniels 16 and Josh Thomas 11 as Renaissance Academy (27-3) rolled to a tough win over top seed Price (26-6), trying for its seventh appearance in the state finals.
The Wildcats took control with a 17-9 run in the second quarter then held off the Knights, who got 20 points and 11 rebounds by Tyreese Breshers and 14 points and seven rebounds from Allen Creabbe.
Daniels hit 8 out of 12 shots and had a team-high eight rebounds along with Termaine Tatum. Price hurt itself at the line, missing 10 of its 21 free throw tries. Renaissance was just 6-for-8.
Renaissance Academy, which made its first regional final appearance, no plays two-time defending champion Branson (Ross) in next week’s state finals.
Renaissance Academy 55, Price 52
Renaissance 13 17 12 13 – 55
Price 12 9 14 17 – 52
RENAISSANCE ACADEMY (27-3): Thomas 3 4-4 11, Combs 1 0-0 2, Tatum 2 0-0 4, Cook 8 2-3 20, Stover 1 0-0 2, Daniels 8 0-1 16. Totals 23 6-8 55.
PRICE (26-6): Crabbe 5 1-2 14, Albritton 4 0-0 10, Trujeque 0 3-3 3, Higgins 0 1-2 1, Taylor 0 2-4 2, Breshers 9 2-8 20. Totals 18 11-21 52.
3-point goals: Thomas, Cook 2, Crabbe 3, Albritton 2.
Long Beach Poly 60, Narbonne (Los Angeles) 47 (OT)
The box score reveals another double-digit win for the two-time defending state champions, but this victory definitely teetered.
Narbonne had the nation’s third-ranked team on the edge, leading 44-38 with 2:32 left, but State Player of the Year nominee Jazmine Dixon, plagued by foul trouble throughout, took over to help send the game into overtime.
Once with new life, there was no slowing the Jackrabbits (30-2), who went on a 16-3 run in overtime to win going away.
“Never a doubt,” said Dixon, who in just 24 minutes put up quite a line: 23 points, 20 rebounds and four steals. “I’m very confident in my team and know they can pull it out no matter what the situation.”
She needed a big boost from Monique Oliver, a 6-3 junior transfer from Las Vegas, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Nobody else for the Jackrabbits scored more than five.
Gabrielle Clark led Narbonne, ranked eighth nationally, with 16 points, Reiko Thomas added 14 and Tipsea Moorer 10. Moorer and Clark had 10 rebounds each and Narbonne held its own on the boards until the final 6:32.
But that’s when the Jackrabbits got ultra serious. And the Rutgers-bound Dixon, who picked up her fourth foul with 5:27 left in the third quarter, absolutely took over.
A 3-pointer by Thomas and a putback by Clark gave the Gauchos (31-5) their biggest lead, 44-38, with 2:32 left.
Within 37 seconds, that lead was 44-43 as Ashley Wilson converted a putback and Dixon a three-point play. Poly’s April Cook made a steal, was immediately called for palming, then fouled out with 1:20 left.
“No worries,” Poly coach Carl Buggs said. “We we’re going to find a way.”
With 42 seconds left, Ariya Crook-Williams stole an inbound pass and Oliver made one of two free throws with 21.0 seconds left to tie. Dixon grabbed an offensive rebound on Oliver’s miss and Poly called timeout with 17 seconds left.
Buggs designed a beautiful play, but the Jackrabbits missed a layup, sending the game into overtime.
“We had them but then we just ran out of gas,” Narbonne coach Victoria Sanders said. “We almost had it but almost doesn’t real count.”
Once in overtime, the Jackrabbits, slammed their foot to the floorboard and didn’t let up en route to their 21st straight win. Oliver took a nice feed from Dixon and converted a three-point play. After two free throws by Wilson and one by Narbonne’s Danielle Lenoir, Dixon hit one free throw and a layup and Wilson scored on a fastbreak layup.
This one was done Despite controlling most of the first three quarters with a patient offense and a strong sagging defense, Narbonne couldn’t finish the deal.
Dixon wouldn’t let them.
“(Dixon) came out strong late,” Sanders said. “She played like an All-American.”
Said Cook: “We just kind of wore them down. Once we got to overtime they couldn’t stick with us.”
The Jackrabbits now get Northern California champion Berkeley in next Saturday’s state title game. It’s the third straight year Poly has met the Yellowjackets for the title. Poly is trying to become just the second team to win three straight Division I girls crowns, the other was Point Loma (San Diego) from 1985-87.
“We want to go to Sacramento and make history,” Dixon said. “In 50 years from now I want people to say I was on the team that won three straight state titles.”
Long Beach Poly 60, Narbonne 47 (OT)
Narbonne 13 12 8 11 3 - 47
Long Beach Poly 9 8 15 12 16 – 60
NARBONNE (31-5): Lenoir 1 1-2 3, Payton 1 2-2 4, Moorer 5 0-0 10, Clark 5 6-7 16, Thomas 4 5-7 14. Totals 16 14-18 47.
LONG BEACH POLY (30-2): Crook-Williams 0 5-6 5, Cook 1 2-4 4, B. Wilson 1 0-2 2, A. Wilson 1 2-2 4, Thompson 1 0-0 3, Dixon 9 5-8 23, Oliver 6 3-5 15, Southall 2 0-0 4. Totals 21 17-27 60.
3-point goals: Thomas, Thompson. Fouled out: Cook, A. Wilson.
Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach) 72, Ayala (Chino Hills) 64 (3 OT)
When a desperation 3-point attempt by Ayala’s Rebekah Gardner missed at the end of the second overtime, Mira Costa senior guard Megan Richardson told her team that she had enough.
“This is it,” she told the Mustangs. “We’re doing this one more time. It’s our time. We’re coming together and not leaving this gym without a victory.”
Despite missing two starters from the start of the season because of torn ACL injuries, including point guard Amanda Johnson; Despite not winning a section crown; Despite never having played in a regional final; Despite playing in their third consecutive overtime game, the Mustangs (28-6) mustered up enough guts for glory to hold off an equally gritty Ayala squad.
They didn’t allow a point in the third overtime and rode the backs of fellow seniors Richardson (25 points, 10 rebounds) and Mikah Maly-Karros (27 points, 20 rebounds, three blocks) to pull out a regional to remember.
Ariel Marsh hit a Division II South Region record five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, Rhema Gardner 15, UCLA-bound Rebekah Gardner 14 and Jasmin Holliday nine points, 21 rebounds and three blocks for Ayala (29-6), which dropped the highest scoring game in D-II South Region history.
It was also the first girls overtime finals in any division and the second triple-overtime South regional final, the other being a Division V boys game in 1998, a 81-79 win by Pacific Hills (Los Angeles) over Horizon (San Diego).
“It’s a shame someone had to lose a triple-overtime game,” Mira Costa coach Don Braunecker said. “But frankly, it doesn’t get any sweeter than this for us. We set out for a dream four years ago and we’ve come up just short before. But these girls wouldn’t be denied.”
Ayala looked like it had every reason to fold when with 2:11 left in the first overtime, Rhema Gardner, a talented 6-1 sophomore who added 11 rebounds, went down with a right calf injury and didn’t return. The Bulldogs were down 55-51 at the time, but eventually tied it 57-57 on a clutch 3-pointer from Stella Sakhon with 17 seconds left in that overtime.
“We left it all on the court,” Marsh said. “We pushed it to three overtimes and gave it all we had. We just didn’t have enough.”
They actually looked like they might pull it out in the second overtime, taking a 64-61 lead with 53 seconds left after a steal, coast-to-coast drive and layup by UCLA-bound Rebekah Gardner, a 6-1 senior.
“At that point I thought we were in very good shape,” Ayala coach Mel Sims said. “But then that girl made the play.”
That girl was Maly-Karros, a 6-1 senior, who drew a foul while banking in a 5-footer. She swished the free throw with 31.8 seconds left, tying the score again at 64-64.
“I wasn’t thinking three-point play or to tie it or anything,” Maly-Karros said. “I was just focused on making the basket.”
After a timeout, Ayala spent too much time in the backcourt – “We didn’t do what we we’re supposed to do,” Sims said – and it led to Gardner’s rushed 3-pointer under duress. When it missed, Ayala’s body language seemed to slump, while Mira Costa rallied.
Being battle-tested evidently helped. The Mustangs, the section I-A runner-up, beat Mt. Carmel (San Diego) 59-58 in overtime before avenging a section loss to top-seed Redondo Union (Redondo Beach) in the regional semifinals, 41-37, in overtime on Thursday.
Kyle Nakamine and Richardson made two free throws each and Maly-Karros converted a layup and two free throws to clinch the victory.
Richardson, who is headed to Fullerton State, had missed four earlier free throws, uncharacteristic for the 75 percent shooter. Fortunately her shooting coach Bryn Britton text messaged Johnson on the bench and the injured guard gave Richardson the proper adjustments. She made four straight free throws after the text message.
She finished 8 of 14 for the game – her team was 16 of 26, which was better than Ayala, which was 8 of 19.
“It was a true game of highs and lows,” Sims said. “Every opportunity we took advantage of we gave one away at the free throw line or a missed layup. It led to our demise.”
Missing the younger Gardner the final 9:42 didn’t help.
“When you’re missing a 6-footer as talented as Rhema it’s going to leave a big hole,” Marsh said. “We’re used to having three big 6-footers in there. Other people stepped up though.”
Freshman Kylie Nakamine (eight points) filled in nicely at point guard for the winners, who also got a big game from Whitney Daniels (eight points, eight rebounds).
The Mustangs now play Mitty (San Jose) in Friday’s state finals.
“It will be such an awesome honor to play at Arco Arena,” Richardson said. “We sure worked hard to get there.”
Mira Costa 72, Ayala 64
Mira Costa 12 13 13 12 7 7 8 – 72
Ayala 12 12 10 16 7 7 0 – 64
MIRA COSTA (28-6): Stephanoff 2 0-0 4, Nakamine 2 2-2 8, Daniels 4 0-0 8, Richardson 8 8-14 25, Maly-Karros 10 6-10 27. Totals 26 16-26 72.
AYALA (29-6): Marsh 6 0-0 17, Tennies 2 0-0 6, Beridon 1 1-2 3, Holliday 3 3-6 9, Rhema Gardner 5 4-10 15, Rebekah Gardner 7 0-1 14. Totals 24 8-19 64.
3-point goals: Nakamine 2, Richardson, Maly-Karros, Marsh 5, Tennies 2, Rhema Gardner.
Magnolia (Anaheim) 40, Muir (Pasadena) 39
Four years ago Magnolia had never won a league title and three weeks ago they lost in the Southern Section semifinals.
Despite the long odds, the Sentinels (27-8) will next week be playing for the state championship against one of, if not, the top team in the country.
Jhakia McDonald scored 19 points and she and Pernilla Hanson hit back-to-back three pointers to put Magnolia up 40-36 with 3:07 to play and though they didn’t score the rest of the way, the Sentinels played good enough defense to pull out the historic win at the Sports Arena.
Eliza Pierre had 11 points and 12 rebounds and Brittany Henderson 10 points and seven rebounds for top-seeded Muir (28-3).
“Bring it on,” McDonald said of the prospects of playing either top-ranked Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) or fifth-ranked St. Mary’s (Stockton) in next week’s state championship at Arco Arena in Sacramento. “Ain’t no thing but a chicken wing.”
McDonald, a 5-6 guard signed to Arizona, was obviously a little delirious with joy but it was understandable. They had lost to Muir in double-overtime at the Ayala Best of the West Tournament in Dec. More importantly, Magnolia lost to Summit (Fontana) in the Section semifinals that could have ended its season.
The Sentinels had to wait to get an at-large bid to keep their season alive. With new life, Magnolia won three games on the road, including 76-72 over Hanford and on Thursday it avenged its loss to Summit with a 45-41 win.
“Revenge or payback wasn’t the issue,” said Magnolia coach Michael Anderson, who turned around the struggling program when he took it over four years. “This is a very good and experienced team and we just needed new life and then correct our mistakes. I tell you what though. Two weeks ago I was very miserable. Today I couldn’t be happier or prouder.”
Unlike the first meeting with Muir when Magnolia had just 14 points at halftime, the Sentinels busted loose from the get-go racing to a 19-10 lead. Muir, making just its second regional final, closed to 19-15 before the game turned into a defensive struggle.
Magnolia didn’t give up the lead until Pierre drilled a 3-pointer, tying it at 34-34 with 4:01 left. After McDonald hit a 3-pointer and Henderson made another outside jumper, Hanson stepped back and made her second 3-pointer of the game, giving Magnolia a four-point lead.
“That was a big shot,” Pasadena coach Gary Johnson said. “We weren’t expecting that at all.”
The Sentinels probably weren’t expecting not to score, but they gave up just a free throw to Henderson and a steal, coast-to-coast drive and lay-up by Chrishawn Frierson, the latter with 23.4 seconds, to hold on to a 40-39 lead.
Brianna Colon missed the front end of a one-and-one with 21.5 seconds, giving Muir a chance to win it. After a Magnolia foul (it had two to give), Cherrish Wallace was called for a travel with 2.0 seconds to play. It was the second travel called on Wallace that were very close.
“I didn’t travel (at the end) and I didn’t travel before,” said the Baylor-bound Wallace, who was held to four points but six assists before fouling out.
McDonald was fouled, missed the front end of a one-and-one with 0.2 seconds left but Muir didn’t have time to get off a shot. The Sentinels had survived and taken advantage of their new life.
“In a word – amazing,” said McDonald of her feelings when the final buzzer finally sounded. “We’re all like sisters and we’ve all known each other and played basketball together long before high school.”
Said Anderson: “Though we wanted a first section title badly, I’d pick three regional wins on the road and a trip to Sacramento any day.”
McDonald said with new life the Sentinels would not be denied.
“With so many seniors (eight) we came together and told each other we have to score, we have to execute and practice on point and everyone had to hustle,” McDonald said. “That’s just what we did.”
With just two seniors, Muir plans to be back to regional finals next year.
“We’ll make adjustments, get back here and hopefully next time win it,” Johnson said. “I thought we played with fantastic effort and did all the things we needed to make a play down the stretch.”
Magnolia 40, Muir 39
Magnolia 19 5 6 10 – 40
Muir 15 6 7 11 – 39
MAGNOLIA (27-8): McDonald 6 5-8 19, Hanson 3 0-0 8, Colon 1 0-0 2, Hunter 1 0-0 2, Pennell 2 4-4 9. Totals 13 9-14 40.
MUIR (28-3): Wallace 2 0-0 4, Pierre 4 2-4 11, Frierson 2 1-2 6, Dade 3 0-0 8, Henderson 4 2-3 10. Totals 15 5-9 39.
3-point goals: McDonald 2, Hanson 2, Pennell, Pierre, Frierson, Dade 2. Fouled out: Wallace.
La Jolla Country Day 69, Marlborough (Los Angeles) 53
At Mater Dei, Dominique Conners had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Janae Fulcher had 17 points and eight rebounds as the Torreys (26-5) dethroned the defending state champions.
LJCD now plays two-time defending North Region champion St. Patrick/St. Vincent (Vallejo) in Friday’s state final at Arco Arena in Sacramento.
The Torreys avenged a loss to Marlborough in last year’s title game by holding All-State guard Nikki Speed to just six points and seven shots. Speed fouled out with 4:55 left.
Chelsea Burns not only did a superb defensive job on Speed, but she also outscored her, with 12 points. Dominique Chen led Marlborough (25-6) with 10 points.
LJCD made 16 free throws in the fourth quarter when it scored 26 points.
Mission Prep (San Luis Obispo) 52, Calvin Christian (Escondido) 25
The Royals (27-4) won their sixth regional crown in record 13th try, utilizing a stingy defense and 10 points and 13 rebounds from Leigh Yetter to win going away.
Mission Prep didn’t allow a basket until 14 minutes and 20 seconds into the game and by that time the winners had 22 points.
Nicole Tasooji had 11 points for Calvin Christian (22-9), the San Diego Section champions.
E-mail Mitch Stephens at firstname.lastname@example.org.