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Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Laguna Hills wins 3AA title in double OT

By Martin Henderson

ANAHEIM -- It took two extra periods, but the correct result was finally achieved -- and what a result it was.

Fourth-seeded Laguna Hills went toe-to-toe with the state's No. 18 team, Mission Hills Alemany, and persevered through two overtimes, 59-55, to win the Southern Section Division 3AA Championship Wednesday at the Anaheim Convention Center Arena.

The victory marked the fifth section title for Laguna Hills (22-8), but it was in doubt. They trailed in the opening quarter, 8-2, and at the end of regulation they lost all momentum on a last-second basket by Alemany (29-3) tied the score.

Actually, the basket came after the final buzzer, and any betting person would have put his cash on the Warriors.

But they slugged through the first overtime and finished, 53-53, and by the time the second OT rolled around, neither team had much left. There was only one field goal, and that was a big one -- Maddy Ziering-Smith hit a three-point basket with 37.4 seconds left to give Laguna Hills a 58-55 lead.

With 5.3 seconds left, she made one of two free throws.

Laguna Hills should have won the game in regulation. The Hawks led, 45-43, and forced Alemany into a rushed, long three-point shot that bounced off the backboard; Hannah Johnson got the rebound and put it back uncontested, but the red light behind the basket -- signaling the end of the game -- clearly went off. Laguna Hills players celebrated at midcourt, but the three officials gathered at the scorer's table, then called it good, sending the game into overtime tied at 45-45.

Celia Marfone led Laguna Hills with 22 points, and Maddy Ziering-Smith had 19. Jeena Bonutto, who hadn't scored in the playoffs, converted two three-pointers -- one that gave the Hawks a 43-40 lead with 28 seconds left in regulation, and another in the first overtime that gave them a 52-49 lead.

Leslie Lopez-Wood scored 23 and Hannah Johnson 10 for Alemany, which made only 21 of 70 shots, including six of 33 (Laguna Hills made eight of 33) and had three players foul out, Alex Moon (9 points), Johnson and Adaora Obi (6).