LA South and LA North: Div. 3AA, Gardena Serra 66, St. Joseph 58

ANAHEIM—Gardena Serra sophomore guard Sierra Thompson was hesitant to drive to the basket early in the Southern Section Division 3AA girls' basketball championship game Friday evening against Santa Maria St. Joseph.

Standing in the way was 6-foot-3 junior center Alyson Beebe.

But her mentality changed after Beebe was called for her fourth foul early in the fourth quarter. Thompson drove right at Beebe with about 6 ½ minutes remaining and drew her fifth foul. Down by four points at the time, the second-seeded Cavaliers rallied with Santa Maria’s best player on the bench and pulled out a 66-58 victory at the Anaheim Convention Center.

“I just knew she had four fouls and I tried to attack her,” said Thompson, who finished with 28 points for the second consecutive game.

Beebe, who is drawing interest from such elite college programs at Connecticut and Duke, finished with 18 points, 17 rebounds and four blocked shot but the top-seeded Knights sorely needed her contributions down the stretch.

“It was a pretty light foul that obviously hurt us,” St. Joseph coach Ed Torres said of the fifth foul on Beebe.

Before Beebe departed, the Knights appeared on their way to their second section final victory against Serra in the last three years. Santa Maria defeated the Cavaliers in the 2009 Division 5AA final.

St. Joseph led, 43-38, heading into the final quarter and still maintained a 46-42 lead when Beebe fouled out with 6:39 left. Thompson made both free throws, then hit a three-point basket on the next possession and the Cavaliers never trailed again.

“To be able to play with them was very satisfying,” said Serra coach McKinsey Hadley. “To be able to win is difficult to describe.”

The other player who scored in double figures for Serra was Rejane Verin, who overcame knee and ankle injuries to score 12 points and pull down 10 rebounds.

Tatiana Dunlap scored 14 points and Heather Madrigal had 11 for St. Joseph’s, who look forward to continuing their season in the Southern California Regional playoffs beginning next week.

“If we do what we need to do, we’re going to win games,” Beebe said.