Mater Dei three-peats by pulling away from Berkeley in what looks like final game for coach Cheryl Draper. Defensive record also set by Bishop O'Dowd in Division III victory while Brookside Christian brings another state title to Stockton with D5 triumph.
The CIF Division I, Division III and Division V state title games in girls basketball were played at Power Balance Arena in Sacramento. The Division II and Division IV titles were decided on Friday.
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 57, Berkeley 40
In a game that was very reminiscent of the 2011 Division I state title game matchup, Mater Dei (34-3) overcame a first quarter deficit to win easily and claim its third straight state championship.
The 2010 title came in Division II with the last two in the state’s big school division.
The win also solidifies Mater Dei’s No. 1 position in the final Cal-Hi Sports rankings and a top 10 finish in the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings where the Monarchs were No. 8 this past week.
Canadian National Team star Nirra Fields, whose guardian, Los Angeles Lakers Coach Mike Brown, flew in to watch her play (as well as his son, Elijah, in the boys’ game), showed exactly why she is perhaps the leading candidate for Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year.
The 5-foot-9 UCLA-bound senior did everything on both ends of the floor. Fields finished with a double-double 24 points and 11 rebounds, with six assists. She was 7-of-14 shooting from the field and 10-for-10 from the free-throw line.
Mater Dei trailed 16-13 late in the first quarter when Fields took over, scoring 10 straight points to give her team a 23-16 lead it never relinquished.
“When I got here it was great. Everyone welcomed me,” Fields remarked. “Coach (Kevin Kiernan) told me my role was to score so that’s what I did.”
“I played with Nirra when she was on the Canadian National Team so I knew what she could do and how she played. She’s been a great contribution to the team,” said USC-bound Jordan Adams.
Adams, who told Cal-Hi Sports she’s still only at about 70-percent while playing on a sore right knee she injured at the Nike TOC, also had a double-double after finishing with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Washington State-bound Alexas Williamson added 16 points and three assists.
The D1 college-bound trio accounted for 53 of Mater Dei’s 57 points.
“They’re all different, the chemistry and rhythm. Teams are just like kids, you love them all,” said Kiernan, who with his three titles at Mater Dei and three previously in Division II at Fullerton Troy, becomes the all-time winningest coach in girls’ state championship history.
His six titles pass the five he shared with Stockton St. Mary’s coach Tom Gonsalves, and Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) coach Sue Phillips. She got No. 5 on Friday night.
“I didn’t realize it (the record),” Kiernan remarked. “That’s a great honor.”
For Berkeley, it was an eighth straight loss in a state title game, if you include the game the Yellowjackets lost on the court in 1998 to Harbor City Narbonne, where the title was later vacated due to the use of an ineligible player.
“Our confidence wasn’t shot down, we just couldn’t finish open shots. They executed today and we didn’t,” said Elisha Davis, the Arizona State-bound senior who scored 10 points (team-high nine rebounds, four steals, four assists).
Junior Rachel Howard led Berkeley (29-3) with 12 points and seven rebounds.
The career of Berkeley coach Cheryl Draper also looks like it will unfortunately end on a bit of a sour note. She announced her intention to retire to Cal-Hi Sports in the hallway outside the Power Balance Pavilion media room.
“I’m done. It’s just too hard,” said a tearful Draper.
Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 62, Laguna Hills 24
A 10-0 start to the game and a 7-0 start in the second quarter put it away early for the Dragons, who won their first-ever state title.
The girls, who lost in last year’s Division III championship to St. Joseph of Santa Maria, also snapped a seven-game losing streak by the school in state finals. The O’Dowd boys won the school’s only other state crown, but that was in 1981.
The Dragons set a state finals’ record by allowing just 24 points in the win. The previous low was 27 given up by Menlo School of Atherton in a 53-27 triumph over Rosamond in the 1990 Division V title game.
The 38-point margin of victory also is tied for second on the all-time state list. The only margin higher was the 44-point margin by St. Mary’s of Stockton in the Division III final two years ago when the Rams beat Bishop Amat of La Puente 89-41.
“As long as we did what we did, the score doesn’t matter, and it all starts with defense,” said O’Dowd coach Malik McCord. “The way our defense played today, I’d have taken them against anybody in the country.”
The lopsided nature of the game isn’t indicative of the effort put forth by the Laguna Hills team, but is more a by-product of the CIF North Coast Section (where O’Dowd is from) using enrollments to determine its divisions while in the CIF Southern Section (where Laguna Hills resides) many of the top-level teams are pushed up into Division I based on competitive strength.
The Dragons, after all, are the top-ranked team overall in Northern California. They sure looked the part against the Hawks and had strong outings from many, including junior forward Kendall “KC” Waters (14 points, 13 rebounds) and freshman guard Aisia Robertson (13 points). Ariell Bostick’s leadership at point guard and the inside presence of junior Oderah Chidom and Breanna Brown also were significant factors in the contest.
“They’d be a very strong Division I team in the Southern Region,” conceded Laguna Hills coach Jim Martin. “They have size, quickness; it’s hard to find any weakness. They brought it from the get-go.”
Bishop O’Dowd (30-3) not only will end the year No. 1 in NorCal, but also no worse than No. 4 in the state. The Dragons can’t move ahead of No. 3 Long Beach Poly because they have a loss to a team from Pennsylvania that Poly beat and because Poly has a win over No. 2 La Jolla Country Day.
“I’m still shocked by the score,” Waters said. “The defense was great. We knew it couldn’t end like last year. My teammates helped me get going.”
Senior forward Celia Marfone, who will play next year at UC Davis, led Laguna Hills with 12 points. Junior Maddy Ziering-Smith added 10.
Brookside Christian (Stockton) 70, Mission Prep (San Luis Obispo) 64
A game many thought would be close turned out to be close despite Brookside Christian (30-4) having 15-point third-quarter leads on three different occasions, including 60-45 entering the final period.
Despite not playing that well in last year’s and this year’s Sac-Joaquin Section D5 title game -- a loss last year to Sacramento Bradshaw Christian and a win this year over Turlock Christian -- Brookside’s Tiara Tucker showed she can perform on the big stage. The 5-foot-6 sophomore whiz poured in a game-high 28 points, including 12 during a period from late in the first quarter until halftime that saw Brookside turn a 15-8 deficit into a 35-28 lead.
“Playing here the first two times I wasn’t that comfortable. Today I was focused.” Tucker said.
“Early in the game we didn’t do a good job of clogging the lanes and blocking out,” Brookside coach Que Ngo said. “The girls really responded in the second quarter, though, and Tiara stepped up big to take over the game. At the end we lost out composure a bit but we held on.”
Tucker wasn’t the only underclass girl to shine on a team whose 11-girl roster includes seven freshmen and two sophomores. In fact, the freshmen and sophomores split the Knights scoring down the middle with each group contributing 35 points. No one knows for sure, but it might be the first time in any state final that no points were scored by a junior or senior for a game-winning team.
“They’re young but we set big standards for the kids at the beginning of the year. The goal was to go to state, nothing less," said Ngo, the first Vietnamese-American coach to ever win a state basketball championship.
Ra’kyra Gabriel, Brookside’s 6-foot-1 freshman power forward, had a very solid 18 points and seven rebounds. Another freshman, guard Rauline Martinez, came off the bench to add 12 points including 2-of-3 from 3-point range.
As a team, the Knights were a respectable 6-of-16 from outside the arc and 25-of-53 (47.2 percent) overall.
Mission Prep (32-2) was attempting to get off the schnied, but unfortunately for the Royals’ faithful, the school’s record dropped to 0-7 in state title games.
“They battled and battled and battled, and we had them rattled early, and if you told me we’d score 64 points against this team, I’d say we’d win,” said Mission Prep coach John Krossa, whose record drops to 0-2 in state title games.
A big factor in the turnaround was Mission Prep losing point guard Kaylee Williams to an ankle injury midway through the first quarter and her team leading 9-8.
Still, the Royals dug in, particularly Bri Harvey. The 5-foot-10 senior forward played her heart out to the final buzzer. She finished with a double-double team-high 22 points and 11 rebounds.
“There was no doubt in our minds that we could come back,” Harvey said.
“We gave it all we had. It was amazing just coming here,” said leading scorer Jenna Dunbar. She took over the point when Williams went down and finished with 17 points.
Besides winning this year, the young Brookside team looks as though it will have to be reckoned with for a few years to come.
“I don’t want to talk too much about next year,” Ngo said, “but you’ll see an even more refined team, plus we have some good freshmen coming in.”