Los Angeles Preps: Southern Section playoffs

NorcoMartin Henderson/For ESPNLA.comNorco, ranked No. 1 in the nation by ESPN HS, won the CIF-SS Division 1 title Saturday.

IRVINE -- Every champion deserves a worthy rival, and Norco has Corona Santiago. The two powers from the Big VIII League have engaged in countless battles over the years, and have combined for six Southern Section championships since 1998.

The seventh championship belonged to Norco, which made plays, got key hits and clutch pitching to score a 6-4 victory Saturday to win the Division 1 championship at Barber Park.

The championship is Norco's third, to go with season-ending victories in 2003 and 2009, in which it beat Santiago. It also capped a season in which the Cougars will finish as the No. 1 team in the nation.

Santiago (23-10), which upset Garden Grove Pacifica -- while it was No. 2 in the nation at the time -- was trying to win its second championship in a row. It also won titles in 1998, 2004 and 2006.

Santiago appeared to be out of the game, but scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to pull to 6-4.

"They're a great opponent," said Norco coach Rick Robinson. "We had a 6-0 lead and I told them to play like it was 0-0.

"I was concerned the entire time."

The tying run was at the plate when the game ended, on Yvon Minogue's line drive back at pitcher Emily Lockman. The Nebraska recruit speared the ball and history.

"It's just really awesome to know I helped my team, I gave 100 percent and in the end we won."

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IRVINE -- When they played earlier this season for the Mt. Baldy League title, Chino swept Chino Don Lugo.

When they played Saturday for the Southern Section Division 2 championship, Chino dusted the Conquistadores again, scoring a 10-6 victory at Barber Park.

Chino pounded out 11 hits and took advantage of five errors by Don Lugo. Chino scored two runs in the second, three in the third, four in the fourth, and one in the fifth.

Pitcher Miranda Viramontes, who hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning, allowed three hits and struck out nine, but she also walked six and hit two. The worst of it was in the bottom of the sixth when she walked four and hit two, then gave up Kailey Pazzolo's two-run single to cap a five-run inning. It was the only hit of the inning, but by that time, Viramontes had been staked to a 10-1 lead.

"I lost my focus a little bit," said Viramontes (20-4), a sophomore.

It's the first championship for Chino (25-9), which reached the finals only once before, 1985. It's the third loss in a championship for Don Lugo (23-6), having suffered setbacks in 1978 and 1990.

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La CanadaMartin Henderson/For ESPNLA.comLa Canada won its second consecutive CIF-SS Division 5 softball championship over Beaumont.

IRVINE -- After winning a Southern Section title in 2011 by one run, La Canada's victory Saturday in the rematch was a walk in the park.

Behind pitcher Lauren Cox and an offense that capitalized on its opportunities, top-seeded La Canada scored a 7-3 victory against second-seeded Beaumont on Saturday at Barber Park .

Cox (24-3) struck out 10 and carried a two-hitter into the seventh inning, when she gave up three, including a two-run homer to Khassady Valdivia.

She hit one batter.

It's the third title for La Canada (26-4-1), which won in 1995 as well as 2011. Beaumont, which lost last year's title game to the Spartans, 1-0, finished 26-5.

Beaumont's rally was too little too late, even though there was a stretch in which four out of five batters hit the ball deep into the outfield.

The consistency in the La Canada lineup provided far more offense than it did in last year's 1-0 victory over Beaumont in the title game. The top six batters in the lineup had scored or had at least one run batted in, and the top eight batters either scored or had a hit.

Catherine Horner scored three runs, Kelsey Drange had three hits, three RBIs and scored a run; and Jessica Ogden had two hits, a run and two RBIs.

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Kaiser HS softballMartin Henderson for ESPNLA.comKaiser won the CIF-SS Division 4 softball title after falling short in the championship game in 2011.

IRVINE --In the end, somebody had to lose.

Even though nobody deserved to.

In a title game between a couple of unseeded teams, both played like champions Friday night at Col. Bill Barber Park in Irvine. What fans at Deanna Manning Stadium got was a pitchers' duel that had a little bit of everything.

Finally, in the bottom of the 11th inning, Jasmine Antunez's high pitch got away from catcher Jenevee Peres and Rebecca Garcia sprinted home to give Fontana Kaiser a 1-0 victory in the Southern Section Division 4 championship.

Kaiser (23-8) was in the championship for the second year in a row, but this was its first title.

Garcia ran for No. 9 hitter Alyssa Dilay after her bouncer into the hole at shortstop gave Kaiser its fourth hit of the game. She took second on a sacrifice and third on a grounder to short. Then, on Antunez's first pitch to No. 3 hitter Jesslene Contreras, her high pitch glanced off Peres' mitt. Garcia raced home and was safe by a mile. It was scored a passed ball.

One of the longest championship games ever was finally over.

Garcia said her run home was the longest of her life. But, she said, she was "110 percent confident."

"I saw the ball die at the fence," she said. "I knew I was already there and it was our game."

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Orange County football, certainly at the upper levels, will have a much different look in the fall. The Southern Section finalized placement for football leagues on Wednesday, with the biggest news involving the premier Pac-5 Division.

The Sunset League is out, the Marmonte League is in.

That means the league has essentially swapped out the likes of Huntington Beach Edison, Newport Harbor and Los Alamitos for Ventura St. Bonaventure, Westlake Village Oaks Christian and Westlake.

All three of those Marmonte programs have played in State Championship Bowl games.

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ANAHEIM -- Orange Lutheran coach Chris Nordstrom kind of smiles every time an opposing group of fans begins chanting "Overrated" when Gabe York steps to the free-throw line.

Note to opposing fans: Stop chanting "Overrated."

York proved once again on Saturday that he's anything but overrated. The Arizona commit scored 28 points and led third-seeded OLu to a 64-58 victory over top-seeded Mission Viejo to win the Southern Section Division 1A championship.

The difference between Mission (27-4), which was more physical and even took a 50-49 lead in the opening minute of the fourth quarter at Anaheim Convention Center Arena, was simple: "York," said Mission Viejo coach Troy Roelen, whose team was spirited, but could not overcome the force that is No. 32.

Mission led for 72 seconds, at which point York made a three-point play for OLu (21-10). After giving up the lead, York scored seven of his team's final 15 points, including a free throw with a two-point lead with 1:32 left to go up 59-56, and another to give the Lancers a four-point lead with 9.7 seconds remaining, 62-58.

York also had five steals, but he wasn't the only one who had a big night. With Payton Banks held to only seven points, Jared Carver stepped up with 11 points and three steals, and Darien Williams had 10 points and 13 rebounds. Antwon Johnson was held scoreless, but had four of OLu's 16 steals.

Mission Viejo, which lost for the second year in a row in the finals, was emotional afterward. Michael Cramer, whose three-point basket gave Mission the 50-49 lead with 7:04 remaining, scored a team-high 16 points. Max Redfield added 14 and Evan Zeller 13. Redfield had 11 rebounds, and Mission held a 44-33 edge over Lutheran in that department.

But Mission fell behind in the first quarter, 22-14 -- Roelen said he expected his team to be better after having played in this game a year ago -- and the rest of the night was spent just trying to catch up.

But even when they caught up, the still had York to contend with.

As overrated as he may be.

ANAHEIM -- The California state basketball championships may be three weeks away, but the fans who filled much of the Anaheim Convention Center Arena on Saturday got a good look at a de facto state championship.

The teams ranked 1-2 in California met with a Southern Section Championship banner at stake, and they brought with them sizable winning streaks and histories.

Mater Dei won its 21st section title -- now two more than defending champion Poly -- but it was hardly in the kind of convincing fashion that makes it a can't miss on its way to another state title.

The top-seeded Monarchs, with four starters back from last year's state champion, held off Poly, 63-59, in a decision that very nearly got away from them.

Stanley Johnson was very active in the closing moments for Mater Dei (29-2), and not always in a good way. The Mater Dei sophomore made one of two free throws with 1:11 remaining to give Mater Dei a 60-58 advantage, and after Xavier Johnson made it 61-59 with 28 seconds left, the spotlight seemed solely directed on Stanley Johnson -- who is not relatied to Xavier.

With a chance to put the screws to Poly, Johnson missed a pair of free throws with 16.2 seconds left. Five seconds later, after missing an anguish-inducing first shot from the charity stripe that teased fans of both schools, he converted the second for a 62-59 lead. Then he stole the ball with three seconds remaining and made the second of two free throws for the four-point final margin.

Although Johnson wasn't perfect, he certainly made an impression on coach Gary McKnight, who talked to Johnson while the rest of the team was being introduced afterward.

"You showed you are an All-American tonight," McKnight recalled telling his prized 6-foot-7 sophomore.

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ANAHEIM -- Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan said that without a doubt, his team's rivalry with Brea Olinda is the best in girls' basketball in Southern California.

Friday night at the Anaheim Convention Center Arena, the two teams delivered the kind of dramatics worthy of the rivalry.

Ranked second in the state but trailing by six points in the final seconds of the third quarter, second-seeded Mater Dei came from behind to beat the Ladycats, 54-47, to win the Southern Section Division 1AA championship.

It's the sixth section title for Mater Dei (29-3), and it denied Brea (24-6) its 17th in its 25th championship appearance. The Ladycats were making their first appearance with coach Kim Cram-Torres, who replaced Jeff Sink following his resignation. Brea came into the game ranked No. 11 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports.

Afterward, Kiernan had nothing but praise for the team that outplayed his for three of four quarters. But that fourth quarter -- that's where the Monarchs earned their crown.

"They did everything they needed to do tonight to win," Kiernan said of Brea, the team it defeated last year in the section and Southern California Regional finals en route to a Division I state title, "and we kind of came in and stole it. ... We started playing defense."

Nirra Fields, who moved into the area this school year -- her guardian is Lakers coach Mike Brown -- scored on a jumper with 2 minutes remaining to give Mater Dei its first lead since the first quarter. They had trailed by as many as six with less than a minute remaining in the third, but Fields closed with a 3-pointer to make it 39-36 going into the fourth.

Fields finished with 19 points, 15 in the second half. She was complemented by Khalia Lark with 14 points and Jordan Adams with 10.

Keitra Wallace led Brea with 16 points, and Taylor Spears -- who had previously attended Mater Dei before transferring -- had 11 points.

Fields was 2-of-3 from the field and 4-of-5 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, including a pair with 15.3 seconds left after a technical foul; Brea called a timeout it didn't have left. Fields stepped to the line and gave Mater Dei a 52-47 lead -- and the ball.

And the championship.

ANAHEIM -- You can't win a championship without scoring for an entire quarter. And so it was that Rio Mesa went into the Anaheim Convention Center Arena -- in its first championship appearance -- and laid a goose egg in the second period.

Outscoring its opponent by 12 points in a crucial eight-minute span, third-seeded Arroyo Grande built the cushion it needed to win the Southern Section Division 3AAA championship, 45-32.

Lindsey Wolf, a 6-foot-1 guard/forward, led Arroyo Grande with 17 points, and Heather Madrigal scored 12 with a team-high 10 rebounds. Alexa Wetmore had eight points and five assists.

Ashley Ontiveros led fourth-seeded Rio Mesa with 11 points, and Ashley Rodriguez had nine. Riley Abraham delivered four points and 17 rebounds.

It was also the first title game for Arroyo Grande, the champion of the PAC 7 League.

The Eagles had a 13-11 lead at the end of the first quarter, but Rio Mesa seemed to get a momentum bump on Brenna Abraham's 3-pointer at the buzzer, but the Spartans wouldn't make another field goal for another 9 minutes 53 seconds -- another 3-pointer by Abraham, who finished with six points.

During the second quarter, Rio Mesa took nine field goal attempts and three free-throw attempts, and none of them went in.

Even with Abraham's third-quarter drought-buster, Rio Mesa didn't score again until 2:27 remained in the third and by then it was facing a 31-14 deficit.

At that point, there was no coming back.

Laguna Hills wins 3AA title in double OT

February, 29, 2012

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).

O.C.: Boys' basketball top 10

February, 26, 2012
In both Division 1AA and 1A, the top four seeds advanced to the semifinals. That means there will be some epic games on Tuesday, perhaps none sweeter than Capistrano Valley against Orange Lutheran. But if you're looking for a sweet ride, Sunny Hills is your team. The 11th-seeded Lancers have beaten two league champions, including third-seeded Riverside North.

1. Mater Dei (27-2): Top-seeded Monarchs reached the semifinals with win over Foothill, but it was the losing Knights who felt good about their performance. Next: vs. Long Beach Poly at Anaheim Arena, Tuesday.

2. Mission Viejo (26-3): Top-seeded Diablos needed overtime to beat Valencia West Ranch, but what's a little extra work to take another step toward the championship? Next: vs. Crescenta Valley, Tuesday.

3. Capistrano Valley (25-4): Second-seeded Cougars get a good start from Aleks Lipovic and roll into the semifinals. Next: at Orange Lutheran, Tuesday.

4. Orange Lutheran (19-10): Third-seeded Lancers get big efforts from Gabe York and Jordan Banks, but nearly blow 20-point lead to Corona. Next: vs. Capistrano Valley.

5. Ocean View (24-4): Long journey in the second round preceded obliteration of Sea Hawks' 18-game winning streak. A bitter defeat to Thousand Oaks, 82-65. Next: Season concluded.

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York helps OLu fend off Corona

February, 24, 2012

ORANGE -- The game was in the bag. All that separated third-seeded Orange Lutheran from reaching the Southern Section Division 1A semifinals was eight minutes.

And what an eight minutes it was.

For Corona.

Down by 20 points in the fourth quarter, the Panthers pulled to within five points -- a couple of easy 3-pointers for the long-distance assassins -- with 74 seconds remaining before Gabe York did his thing once again. York's free-throw shooting salvaged the night and Orange Lutheran scored a 79-70 victory on its home floor.

OLu will play host in the semifinals against second-seeded Capistrano Valley, a 67-55 winner at Vista Murrieta. Top-seeded Mission Viejo also won, winning 81-77 in overtime at Valencia West Ranch. Fourth-seeded Crescenta Valley won at home against fifth-seeded El Toro, 61-49, in the other quarterfinal.

York, an Arizona-bound guard, finished the night with 32 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He had 19 points at halftime and the Lancers (19-10) had a 62-42 lead after three quarters, but the team's shooting went cold and the play got sloppy. It wasn't until 3:10 remained in the game that York's drive to the basket netted the first field goal of the quarter for Lutheran, which made only 2-of-8 field goals in the period.

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I.E.: Boys' basketball playoffs

February, 22, 2012
Another solid night for Inland Empire boys’ basketball teams in the Southern Section playoffs. Here’s a quick rundown of a few highlights:

*Upland, seeded No. 12 in Division 1AA, is the lowest-seeded team to slip through to the final eight, joining No. 3 Etiwanda and No. 7 Eisenhower from the I.E.

*Vista Murrieta and Corona, seeded 10th and 11th in Division 1A, also made it through to the final eight as the lowest remaining seeds in that bracket.

*In Division 2AA, a couple big-time upsets have left No. 8 Riverside Poly and No. 12 Cajon as the highest-seeded teams remaining in the top half of that bracket. One of these teams has a good chance to make the final as a longshot coming into the playoffs.

*Palm Desert, seeded fourth in Division 3AAA, is in a similar position after Arroyo Grande knocked off top-seeded Damien in a quarterfinal, and the Aztecs then benefited from a key coin flip that will allow them to host a semifinal Friday night.

Here’s a closer look the award winners from Tuesday night.

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The upper divisions of the Southern Section boys' basketball playoffs began on Friday with mostly predictable results (OC teams emerged victorious from all seven games in which they were involved in Division 1A). In the lower divisions, they played the second round, and a darkhorse in 3AA -- seventh-seeded Servite -- pulled up lame before hitting the backstretch.

Biggest upset: In only its second varsity season, Yorba Linda (11-17) went into Servite (11-18), long known for its distracting fans and a veteran of the Trinity League gantlet, and scored a 62-55 second-round victory in Division 3AA behind the play of Sharthak Mukhopadhyay, who scored 21 points. Mukhopadhyay scored 14 in the fourth as the Mustangs stretched a 37-33 lead after three quarters to nine points with 3 1/2 minutes remaining -- only to watch Servite close to within two points with 33 seconds remaining as Tre Hunter hit a pair of threes and a free throw. Hunter scored 12 of his 27 in the fourth, but Yorba Linda made five of six free throws in the final half-minute to hold on. The Mustangs next play at Charter Oak, which KO'd second-seeded Santa Barbara San Marcos, 48-45.

Best performance: When you're 7 feet 5 inches, you're supposed to be dominating, and that was the case for Mamadou Ndiaye, who helped No. 7 Brethren Christian (24-5) win on the road at Temecula Linfield Christian, 66-54. The victory sets up BC with a home game in the quarterfinals against second-seeded Sun Valley Village Christian (26-2), which is a big hurdle toward winning the 5AA championship. Ndiaye scored 27 points, had 16 rebounds and blocked seven shots. He was 12 of 17 from the field, a performance that included nine dunks. He is averaging 23.4 points, 13.9 rebounds and five blocks. It wasn't completely Ndiaye's show: freshman Brandon Bryson scored 18, well above his 4.9 on the season.

Best comeback: There's no margin for error in a single-elimination playoff, so credit El Toro (21-8) for taking care of business in the second half of its 56-50 victory over Long Beach Cabrillo (10-15). The Chargers were down, 29-23, at halftime before a 16-8 run in the the third quarter to seize the lead. Jordan Faison scored 21, and Ryan Roberts 12 as fifth-seeded El Toro set up a second-round game at Huntington Beach (16-12) , a 52-28 winner over Katella.

Best start: Tesoro opened a 12-0 lead in the first quarter, which helped the Titans hold off Westminster, 48-38, as Jalen Bruce and Andrew Lee scored 11 apiece. Westminster (16-11) finished with a flourish -- the Lions outscored Tesoro (15-12) in the fourth quarter, 20-13, accounting for more than half their points in the final eight minutes. The Titans will host second-seeded Canyon Country Canyon on Tuesday in the second round of the 2AA playoffs.

Best backstory: The game finished the way many anticipated, but it's worth noting anyway. Two years ago, Xavier Johnson was playing at Temecula Chaparral. Then he transferred to Mater Dei, the Monarchs won a state title with a large group of underclassmen, and this year they are among the top teams in the nation. In the first round, Johnson's former team ventured into the Meruelo Events Center and faced their former player. Johnson and Katin Reinhardt scored 17 apiece to lead the top-seeded Monarchs to a 79-34 victory over Chaparral (17-11). Mater Dei (25-2) led after one quarter, 23-17, but Chaparral scored only four, seven and six points the remaining three quarters. It would have been a more interesting match-up if Johnson had stayed. He didn't. And the rest is history. And backstory.

Best highlight: A lot of dunks are overrated. This one isn't. Gabe York's one-handed slam off a lob pass was the defining moment of third-seeded Orange Lutheran's 70-46 victory over Dana Hills (11-15) in the first round of the 1A playoffs. The Lancers (17-10) got 24 points from the 6-foot-2 Arizona-bound guard -- and maybe got the highlight of the year.
The Southern Section boys' basketball playoffs begin for Orange County teams playing in the lower divisions on Wednesday. Here's a look at a few games that are worth watching. All games are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Sonora (13-14) at Tustin (20-6), 3AAA: These teams opened the season against each other, and they were separated by only five points headed into the fourth quarter. Tustin won, 52-41, but it's interesting to note that Sonora shut out the Tillers in the third quarter. Could the Raiders channel that third-quarter defensive effort and stun the division? For what it's worth Sonora has the best-named player in the county, Jimmy Golden (16.1 ppg). The Raiders also lost eight games by six points or fewer -- and four by three or fewer, including 52-51 to an Anaheim Canyon team that a few weeks later beat Tustin, 68-40.

Brea Olinda (15-12) at Woodbridge (19-7), 3AAA: Coach Jeff Sink won all kinds of playoff games, including state championships, when he directed the Brea girls' program. This is his first season as coach of the boys, and it will be interesting to see what he can do here in an obvious underdog role. He was well-known for throwing all kinds of tricks at the opposition; can his magic work with boys as well? Woodbridge's three leading scorers are all sophomores, Michael Scarlett (11.7 ppg), Ali Lodin (10.0) and Jason Gregson (9.3).

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