Scott Kurtz/ESPNHSNirra Fields drives into the lane against L.B. Poly's Arica Carter.L.B. Poly player’s seizure puts D1 final (won by Mater Dei) in perspective. La Jolla Country Day takes D4 crown while other victors include J.W. North (D2), Laguna Hills (D3) and Mission Prep (D5).
The CIF Southern Regional title games were played at Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario (Divisions 1-3) and at Colony High School in Ontario (Divisions 4-5). Writeups by Ronnie Flores and Mark Tennis. Contributing: Harold Abend.
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 54, Poly (Long Beach) 43
In a game between two teams that have played memorable playoff games in recent years with a plethora of talent on the floor, this game was a bit different. There wasn't overwhelming talent and both teams, especially Mater Dei (19 turnovers), didn't executive particularly well.
But when a team has championship experience, it finds ways to win. In this game, that was especially important considering an unfortunate incident that overshadowed the action with 3:56 remaining in the third quarter.
"It was a tough, typical arena game -- a scrum," said Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan. "It's hard to look good against a defensive team like Poly, but it's great to get a win in any fashion."
Kiernan will be attempting to win his third consecutive CIF state title next week against NorCal Div. I champ Berkeley and his sixth overall in eight appearances. Before winning two consecutive in two different divisions at Mater Dei, Kiernan won three at Troy of Fullerton in Div. II between 2003-2006.
"My hat goes off to Mater Dei, they are an outstanding team," said Poly coach Carl Buggs, who was looking to advance to his sixth state title game. "We allowed too much penetration in the first half, then in the second half they made their 3-pointers."
Mater Dei (33-3) held Poly (31-4) to nine points each quarter of the first half to take a 27-18 halftime lead. The Monarchs then took control with three consecutive 3-point baskets early in the third period by Alexas Williamson (two) and Bianca Velasco.
The triple-triple sequence gave Mater Dei a 36-20, lead, its largest of the game, then a few minutes later the game was stopped for approximately 15 minutes when Poly's Keyla Morgan collided with a Mater Dei player and began shaking violently.
It immediately looked like a serious medical condition and there was a hush over the crowd when it was realized Morgan had suffered a seizure. She previously had a similar incident at a Poly practice but was cleared to participate.
"She is at the hospital and they were running tests to see if she had any neurological damage," Buggs said at the media press conference following the game. "One of the medical staffers mentioned she had asked to be turned over so she can watch the game, so she's going to be okay."
According to reports from local newspapers after the game, Morgan was alert and responsive during the Div. I boys' game.
Poly could have folded and lost in a complete rout after the scary incident, but the girls battled back and actually outscored Mater Dei the rest of the way 19-18. The Jackrabbits even cut the Monarchs' lead down to five points (48-43) with 1:02 remaining in the game.
Mater Dei senior Nirra Fields, the Gatorade State Player of the Year and a candidate to be the Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports, led all players with 20 points. Williamson was Mater Dei's other double-digit scorer with 14 points. Olivia Montgomery was Poly's only double-digit scorer with 12 points.
"It's tough. It's like losing a member of your family," Buggs said of Morgan's medical scare. "I'm most proud of how we fought back after she went down."
J.W. North (Riverside) 57, Foothill (Tustin) 49
Despite standout Pricilla Brooks fouling out in the fourth quarter, the Huskies still came on strong down the stretch to end the playoff run of the Knights.
J.W. North, which has been as high as No. 13 in the state and was No. 16 in this week’s top 20, was leading 47-41 with 4:24 remaining in the game when Brooks fouled out. But Foothill couldn’t make a comeback.
"Recently, Brittany Crain hasn't played like she is capable of, but she came through for us. They forgot about her after Pricilla fouled out," said J.W. North coach Leonard DeCoud.
Brooks still led the Huskies (30-5) with 17 points and had 10 rebounds. Crain had 14 points and also grabbed 10 boards.
Foothill’s leading scorer, Molly Gruebel, topped the Knights once again, but her 16 points was a far cry from the 28 she poured in to key the team’s win over Lynwood in the semifinals.
"We've had some great comebacks in the regional. When their big girl (Pricilla Brooks) fouled out, I thought we had a chance, but it didn't work out that way," Gruebel said.
"Our game plan coming in was to slow down Greubel,” DeCoud said. “She's real crafty, she can shoot the ball and she makes them look real good out there. Early in the game, we were shooting our 3-pointers from the pro line, I told the girls we have to go inside."
J.W. North, which has won CIF state titles in girls track, will be making its first appearance in a CIF state basketball championship.
"I didn't realize how much support J.W. North had until I looked at past articles from the 1960s and 1970s and saw how much people were in the stands,” DeCoud said. “This is a milestone moment that nobody can ever take away from these girls."
Foothill coach Vince Namba, whose team ended 28-6 and probably locked up a final top 20 state ranking due to the win over Lynwood, also talked about the support of his school community.
"Nobody at Foothill, boys or girls, have made it this far in the regional,” the coach said. “It's kind of uncharted waters. The Tustin community rallied behind us. I'm really proud of them."
Laguna Hills 75, Mission Bay (San Diego) 69
The Lady Bucs of Mission Bay had to make the trek from San Diego for the early game and came out sluggishly against a taller Laguna Hills team. But it wasn't the height of the Lady Hawks that was the difference; it was Laguna Hills' 3-point shooting that earned them a trip to Sacramento to face Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland for the state title.
Laguna Hills made 7-of-17 from long range and every one seemed to be a dagger to a Mission Bay push.
"We weren't worried about their size, they didn't go for many offensive rebounds because they got back on defense," said Mission Bay coach Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood, attempting to make her first state title game coaching appearance after winning two as a player at Lynwood. "We were not ready for their 3-point shooting; it was excellent."
Leading the way for Laguna Hills was 6-foot forward Celia Marfone, who canned 4-of-5 on 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 28 points and a team-high 14 rebounds. She did not score in the first quarter.
"I usually don't start that slow, but it was a different atmosphere here," Marfone said. "But I took my open shots, I just let them go and they went in."
Keyanhndra Cannon, Mission Bay's best floor leader and passer, picked up her fourth personal foul with 3:53 before halftime. Mission Bay still was able to take a four-point lead (39-35) late in the quarter, but the CIF San Diego Section Div. III champs fell asleep on defense and gave up a 3-pointer and a breakaway lay-up in the final 30 seconds as Laguna Hills went up 40-39 at halftime.
Despite the problems, Mission Bay's full court press kept the Bucs in the game. They trailed 59-54 at the end of the third quarter and cut their deficit to three points on more than one occasion, but were never able to get closer.
Laguna Hills got a big lift from junior center Anna Mumm. She scored a career-high 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Cannon played valiantly with four fouls until fouling out with 1:07 remaining in the game and her team trailing 69-65. Cannon finished with 19 points. Briteesha Solomon finished with 28 to lead Mission Bay, but she took 30 field goal attempts.
Laguna Hills won the CIF Division II state title in 1997 when it was led by State Athlete of the Year Tayyiba Haneef-Park, who is now a star for the USA national volleyball team.
"Our 1997 team was powerful from the get go," said Laguna Hills coach Jim Martin. "This team blossomed later in the season and came out of nowhere for many. We get so much support from our staff and community."
La Jolla Country Day (La Jolla) 46, Serra (Gardena) 36
After falling one game short of the state finals last year and two games short the previous season, coach Terri Bamford’s girls will be back at the CIF championships for the first time since 2008.
This win wasn’t a surprise, but the low-scoring, slug-it-out style final score was a far cry from the 80 points that Serra scored in its semifinal win over Windward of Los Angeles and the 81 that La Jolla Country Day scored in its semifinal victory against St. Bernard of Playa del Rey.
”It was a closely officiated game, real tight, and with both teams being super athletic there were a lot of calls," said Bamford, who guided the school to CIF crowns in 2001 and 2002 in Division V but has lost in three previous Division IV state finals.
Neither team also shot the ball very well.
“A lot of that had to do with them being in our face on every shot, plus we missed a lot of free throws," Bamford said.
Leading all scorers was junior Kelsey Plum, the State Player of the Year candidate from La Jolla Country Day. She had 23 points, six rebounds and three steals. Plum was particularly strong in the fourth quarter when the Torreys cemented their win.
"Kelsey did exactly what she's been doing for us all season,” Bamford said. “She wants the ball in crunch time and she can produce."
It also was not lost on the Torreys that Serra was coming into the contest after eliminating a Windward team that was No. 1 in the state overall heading into the post-season. The win won’t move up the 31-1 team from No. 2 in the state, however, because No. 1 Mater Dei of Santa Ana also won in the D1 South final on Saturday.
The Cavaliers just couldn’t maintain their hot play in this game. Deandrea Toler had a fine game with 14 points on 7-of-13 shooting, but the rest of the team only shot a combined 8-for-38. Serra ends the season 30-4, but will definitely be ahead of Windward in the final rankings.
Mission Prep (San Luis Obispo) 62,
Rolling Hills Prep (San Pedro) 41
The Royals ended up having an easier time winning the SoCal regional title than they did in the CIF Southern Section Division VAA.
Mission Prep’s earlier regional wins were 51-16 over Avalon and 64-28 against Providence of Burbank. The team’s last two section wins were 58-46 over Templeton and 56-45 over Villanova Prep of Ojai.
A 19-8 run in the third quarter put the game on ice for the Royals, who were led by Jenna Dunbar with 21 points and seven assists. Kaylee Williams contributed 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Rolling Hills Prep’s Mar-Jana Phillips, a 6-foot junior who can play multiple positions on the floor, had a big game for the Huskies with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Some of the team’s other usual top scorers, however, struggled.
Mission Prep will be making its seventh trip to the CIF state finals, but the school has never won. Its last D5 final loss was in 2008 to Branson of Ross. This year’s team will be facing Brookside Christian of Stockton, which is in its first CIF state final.
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