SANTA ANA, Calif. –
According to Windward (Los Angeles)
head coach Steve Smith, Friday's 65-62 win over host Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
at the Nike Extravaganza might not have happened without a disappointing performance against the nation's top-ranked team three weeks ago.
No. 1 St. Mary's (Phoenix, Ariz.)
handed the Wildcats (21-3) a 14-point loss Jan. 16, providing a valuable lesson for his defending Division IV state champions.
"We didn't show up at all in that game and we learned from that," Smith said. "Since then we played Long Beach Poly there and beat them and played Mater Dei here and beat them. Without that game, not sure how this one turns out."
Windward – ranked No. 3 in this week's Xcellent 25 – received a team-high 16 points from sophomore guard Macchiati Smith
, who provided a pair of key plays late in the game. With just over three minutes remaining in the contest, she made a steal and converted the bucket to give the Wildcats much-needed breathing room at 59-51.
With the Monarchs staging a valiant comeback in the final two minutes, Macchiati Smith's rebound off a missed free throw and putback with under 30 seconds remaining effectively closed out No. 9 Mater Dei.
"She steps up in crucial moments for us," Steve Smith said of his sophomore standout, noting that she hit a game-winner last week against Long Beach Poly.Courtney Jaco
(12 points), Jordin Canada
(10) and Kristen Simon
(10) also finished in double figures for Windward. Imani Stafford
, a 6-foot-7 senior center headed to Texas, contributed nine points to go along with 15 rebounds. Stafford displayed her versatility by looking very comfortable in knocking down a 3-pointer in the third quarter.
Mater Dei (21-3) was led by UCLA signee Nirra Fields
with 26 points. Washington State signee Alexas Williamson
For Windward, the win over Mater Dei was the latest test in a brutal schedule that has featured five nationally-ranked teams.
"We set out a goal this year to play the best," Steve Smith said. "Everything is a means to the end for us. Windward is about winning, hopefully having the same type of tradition that Mater Dei has."