SANTA ANA -- By the time Villanova Prep scored its first points in Saturday's CIF-SS Division 5AA championship game at Mater Dei High, more than five minutes into the contest, top-seeded Mission Prep had already opened up an 11-0 lead on the Wildcats.
The halftime score between the two teams? 28-17, Mission. And the final score? 56-45, Mission. The 11-point margin held throughout, with Villanova's late start damaging its chances significantly and allowing Mission to take home the win -- and the title.
For 27 of the 32 minutes in the game, the two schools played to a tie, essentially. But the first five minutes ended up being the deciding factor, even as Villanova tied the score at 38-38 in the second half. As Mission Prep coach John Krossa explained it afterward, his Royals were only able to withstand the Wildcats' runs because of the early lead they staked themselves to.
He said he kept telling that to Jenna Dunbar, the team's leading scorer, who missed much of the fourth quarter after fouling out but was the driving force to the Royals' 11-0 run.
And Krossa never doubted the outcome.
"I don't want this to sound cocky, but I really felt like we were always going to win," Krossa said.
Mission guard Kaylee Williams scored a game-high 22 points, which tied a season-high and doubled her season average. She shot 6-of-9 from the field, 2-of-2 from 3-point range and 8-of-10 from the free-throw line. Forward Bri Harvey added 18.
Dunbar had just four points and five fouls in 17 minutes.
For Villanova (23-7), from Ojai, senior forward Natalie Miotti had 15 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore Samantha Watson added 14 and senior Emily Mactee scored 10. The Wildcats shot just 21 percent from the field in the first half and 31 percent for the game.
Mission Prep (29-1), from San Luis Obispo, recently switched back to CIF Southern Section after two decades in the Central Section. This is the first title the Royals have won since coming back to the Southern Section.