SANTA ANA -- With a little more than three minutes to play in the CIF Southern Section Division 5AA girls' basketball championship game, Santa Clara’s Cynthia Hernandez went down with a cramp in her leg.
For a moment, the hopes of a title for Oxnard Santa Clara seemed to go down with her.
Hernandez wasn’t out of the game very long and returned to make three free throws in the final minute to give Santa Clara a 52-49 win over top-seeded St. Bernard from Playa del Rey at Mater Dei High School on Saturday.
Hernandez was outplaying everyone on the court. She was the leader in scoring and rebounding. She helped her team build a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter. But when she had to leave the game because of leg cramps, her team was up only three points, 48-45, with 3:05 to play.
Hernandez was out less than a minute, stretching out a pulled calf muscle with a trainer on the sideline. But it was long enough for St. Bernard to take a one-point lead, 49-48, on a basket by Michelle Curry with 2:15 to play.
It would be the last points the Vikings would score.
Hernandez sank two free throws with 50.3 seconds left to play in the fourth quarter to give Santa Clara a one-point lead. Chyanne Butler fouled out trying to keep Hernandez from bringing the ball upcourt. Butler, the smallest player on the court at 5 feet 1, was St. Bernard’s leading scorer with 13 points.
Hernandez made one more free throw with 12 seconds left for a 52-49 edge. She finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds. She also had four assists and three steals.
“She’s a warrior,” Santa Clara coach Ruben Marin said. “She’s got a ton of heart. She was unbelievable. Obviously tonight, she was better than her mistakes.”
About her only mistake against St. Bernard was that she was too aggressive. She admitted to forcing some shots. The play she hurt her leg, she was scrapping for a loose ball.
“I wanted to win so bad,” Hernandez said.
Santa Clara’s Chanel Smith scored 10 points and had 15 rebounds. Keiana Vines scored 11 points for Santa Clara.
Kacy Swain scored 12 points and had 11 rebounds for St. Bernard. Lajauna Drummer scored nine points and had nine rebounds.