Los Angeles Preps: Richard Wiard

Bishop Amat girls claim 3A title

February, 29, 2012

ANAHEIM -- Like at many schools across the Southland, tradition is of utmost importance at Bishop Amat. The San Gabriel Valley, it seems, counts on Amat to add to its loaded trophy case year in and year out.

They'll have to make room in the display case once more.

Amat built onto its illustrious history Wednesday afternoon, beating top-seeded Oak Park, 44-30, in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3A girls' basketball title game at the Anaheim Convention Center. It was the Lancers' first section championship since 2006 but its fourth since the turn of the century.

"We have a pretty strong tradition," Amat coach Richard Wiard said. "The expectations are always there. The only way you meet expectations is with hard work."

Amat (21-11) blitzed the bracket's top-seeded team, holding Oak Park to only eight points in the second and third quarters combined. Sophomore Paulina Santana had 14 points and Dagmar Ramirez had 10 to lead the Lancers.

"They pleasantly surprised us," said Oak Park coach Kenny Golub, whose team made its first finals appearance since 2011. "Their defense was definitely a little bit more tenacious than ours."

The Oak Park Eagles (21-9) trailed by five after the first quarter, but were held to only three points in the second and five in the third. That added up to a insurmountable deficit. Only three players scored for Oak Park: Kelsey Haines (20), Sarah Bucknovitz (seven) and Courtney Wing (three).

"I still believe they should have been the top seed," Golub said of Amat. "They were the most athletic team we've played all year. They were a step quicker. We had our hands full."

The Lancers held the Eagles to 24-percent shooting and, although they were out-rebounded, controlled the pace. Ramirez had a crucial steal-and-score late in the third quarter that sparked an 8-0 run. Amat, which played one of the most difficult regular-season schedules around, was undersized but it mattered little.

"Our difficult schedule helped us prepare," Wiard said.

And Amat, once again, met its lofty expectations.

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.

LA South and Orange County: Bishop Amat 40, Irvine 38

February, 19, 2011
IRVINE -- There are some divisions in the Southern Section girls' basketball playoffs that ought to be sure things. Brea vs. Long Beach Poly or Mater Dei in Division 1AA, Edison vs. Troy in 1A.

But swing down to Division 3A and it's as wide open as a Montana highway. That was clear Saturday, when third-seeded Bishop Amat scraped out a 40-38 victory over 14th-seeded Irvine.

The Lancers (23-6) are a stalwart of the section playoffs since 1999. But Irvine (15-13) very nearly won its biggest game in a decade. When the final two minutes decided the outcome, Irvine had three players foul out and another leave because of an ankle injury.

Fortunate? Yeah, Bishop Amat was fortunate.

"Somebody said there's no such thing as an ugly playoff win," Bishop Amat coach Richard Wiard said. "They lied. Survive and advance. Survive and advance."

It was an ugly game of survival, all right. Bishop Amat could have dominated, Irvine could have won easily. It could have been anyone's game in a division in which top-seeded Orange Lutheran has lost to second-seeded Bonita which has lost to third-seeded Bishop Amat.

In the end, Irvine's inability to convert its free throws may have been the decisive component. The Vaqueros had only five attempts through the first three quarters, but 10 in the fourth and made only four. They finished six of 15.

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