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.