LOS ANGELES -- Locked in a game that was too close for comfort, her team too close to being declared the national champion to let the opportunity slip away, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis seized control of the Southern California Regional Division I Championship in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.
The UConn-bound wing scored eight points in a 3-1/2 minute span, and scored 13 of her game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter that turned a two-point game with Canyon Springs into a rout, a 59-44 footnote in her stellar athletic career.
“She willed herself, and us, to the win,” said coach Kevin Kiernan, whose program was ranked No. 1 in the nation last season by ESPN Rise. “It’s not just her talent, it’s her mental toughness.”
Mater Dei (33-1) currently ranked No. 1 in the nation, will try to win its third state title at Arco Arena next Saturday, 6 p.m., against Berkeley, a 68-57 winner of Concord Carondelet.
Lewis played with a pulled muscle in her leg and, for the first three quarters, played second fiddle to USC-bound teammate Alexyz Vaioletama, who had 17 points in leading the Monarchs to a 39-35 advantage. After Cheyenne Greenhouse scored to make it 39-37, Lewis went on her tear. She scored on a hook, and after Kiki Alofaituli tallied inside, Lewis fought off a defender riding her shoulder the length of the court on a drive, then scored inside on a nifty pass from Jordan Adams. That made it 49-37 with 4:30 left in the game.
If Canyon Springs (30-4) had any intention of knocking off Brea Olinda —which was ranked No. 3 nationally at the time — and Mater Dei in back-to-back games, the opportunity ended there.
Adams, who missed her last game with a dislocated shoulder and said she was only 60 percent healthy for this game, followed a Canyon Springs score with a three-point play. Lewis put back her own miss and with 1:40 remaining, then buried a three-pointer.
Alofaituli added 12 points for Mater Dei, and Tear’a Laudermill and Jasmine Johnson scored 14 apiece for Canyon Springs.