By CLAY KALLAM | Contributor
It was 10-0. Laguna Hills had eight turnovers “” and had managed to get off just two shots.
One of them was an air ball.
Multiply that by eight, and you have the story of the Bishop O’Dowd-Laguna Hills “game” that passed for the California Interscholastic Federation Division III girls’ championship.
The final score was 62-24, and the 24 was the lowest total ever for a girls’ team in a state title game. And you know, it wasn’t that close.
Last year, things didn’t work out quite as well. The Dragons lost to St. Joseph-Santa Maria 63-42 in the championship, and that defeat still stung.
“We already had motivation remembering how last year ended,” said Ariell Bostick, “but during pregame (coach) Malik (McCord) brought in our second place medals and threw them down on the floor. And that’s when I was like, ‘Oh, I’m ready’.”
Laguna Hills, however, was not.
Point guard Maddy Ziering-Smith took the brunt of the O’Dowd readiness, and was forced into seven first-quarter turnovers and finished with just two of eight shooting. The rest of her teammates made just five more baskets, so the Hawks finished with just seven field goals in 32 minutes “” and had 26 turnovers.
Meanwhile, McCord had emptied the bench midway into the second quarter, and every O’Dowd player scored in the romp.
K.C. Waters led the Dragons with 14 (and 12 rebounds), and freshman Aisia Robertson had 13, but it really didn’t matter who the Dragons put on the floor “” Laguna Hills simply could not compete.
Though Miramonte coach Kelly Sopak was not in the stands, he and Bishop O’Dowd’s other NorCal victims could take more than a little solace in the thumping of Laguna Hills.
It wasn’t that they were bad teams, it was that Bishop O’Dowd was that good.
Just ask Laguna Hills.
DIVISION I GIRLS
It came down to this: Mater Dei is No. 6 in the nation for a reason.
Actually, Mater Dei is No. 6 in the nation for a variety of reasons, all of which were on display Saturday at Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento. The Monarchs rolled to their third straight state title by a 57-40 margin that really didn’t reflect the run of play.
After all, it was 16-15 Berkeley after the first quarter of the Division I girls’ title game, and there was a sense that maybe, just maybe, the 29-3 Yellowjackets could pull off the upset.
Then, said Mater Dei coach Kevin Keirnan, “We started guarding some people.” And then, Berkeley quit scoring.
In fact, the “˜Jackets went more than nine minutes without making a field goal, and by the time they got it back together, they were down by 11 to a veteran, talented team that had been tested in the fire of the best competition in the country.
And, not incidentally, had won CIF championships in the two previous seasons.
So there was never a sense of panic after that first quarter, especially when Nirra Fields, a senior transfer who lives with her guardian, L.A. Lakers’ coach Mike Brown, decided to take charge. She hit a follow shot with 15 seconds left in the first quarter to cut the margin to one, converted two consecutive drives to start the second period, hit a ten-footer and then drained two free throws.
After Alexas Williamson (more on her later) scored on a tough drive to the hoop, Fields then found Jordan Adams (more on her, too) for a layup, and it was pretty clear that Mater Dei was just too good.
Don’t tell that, however, to Berkeley’s star guard, Elisha Davis. “They are good and I have a lot of respect for them, but I think they were beatable,” said Davis. “The difference tonight was that they executed and we didn’t.”
One Mater Dei player who definitely executed was Alexas Williamson, who will play against Davis in the Pac-12 (Williamson for Washington State, Davis for Arizona State). Williamson had the primary defensive responsibility on Davis, who made just two of 12 shots and turned the ball over seven times.
“I just tried to contain her,” said Williamson modestly, and if not for Davis getting bailed out on several wild drives to the hoop by fouls, the Yellowjacket guard wouldn’t have gotten the 10 points she did.
So we have scoring (Fields) and defense (Williamson). How about rebounding? Adams, the 6-foot-1 point guard, had 11 rebounds, Fields had nine and Khalia Lark had eight.
“They were so much more physical and stronger,” said Davis. “They could push us out of the way.”
Desire Finnie tried to battle back, with eight rebounds and three blocks, and Rachel Howard led Berkeley with 12 points, but five of those came in the first two minutes of the game.
Yellowjacket coach Cheryl Draper tried changing pace, going to a 1-2-1-1 press, but Mater Dei would not rattle (yet another reason). Berkeley didn’t quit, and when Davis got her first basket of the game with 4:46 left, the margin was just 13 points.
But the Monarchs calmly made their free throws, handled the pressure and carried the trophy away for the third straight year. And after the game, they walked arm-in-arm back to their locker room, in the wide tunnel underneath Power Balance Pavilion, chanting “We are Mater Dei, back-to-back-to-back state champions.”
It wasn’t boastful, it wasn’t arrogant, and there was no one listening (they thought) but them. But that display of teamwork was just one more reason the Monarchs ruled Division I “” again.
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