The way regulation ended, Gardena Serra seemed destined to win Friday night's CIF Division I state final at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley.
Guard Briana Johnson swished a three-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime, and the Cavaliers had two chances underneath the basket to win at the end of the first overtime, but instead it was Sacramento McClatchy that ultimately prevailed, 65-61, in double overtime for its first state championship.
"I knew it was going in," Johnson said of her game-tying three-pointer as the fourth-quarter clock hit zero. "We were very confident going to overtime. We thought we were going to win. We played the best we could, but we missed a lot of layups and free throws."
Serra overcame a nine-point deficit with 1:29 remaining in regulation and nearly pulled off its second comeback in as many games after rallying to beat Ventura in overtime to win the Southern California Regional title last week. Johnson led the Cavaliers with 21 points, and fellow junior Brijaye Brackett added 14 points and 15 rebounds.
It was a heartbreaking end to a memorable season for Serra (23-11), a school rich in CIF championship history in many sports that has produced numerous collegiate standouts. Under Coach McKenzie Hadley, the Cavaliers won the Division IV state title two years ago.
Gigi Garcia had 19 points and 20 rebounds, including back-to-back layups that gave the Lions (27-7) a five-point lead in the second overtime. Johnson's driving layup pulled Serra within 63-61 with 4.8 seconds left, but Alex Washington was fouled intentionally on the inbounds play and sank both foul shots to seal the victory.
"Hats off to them," Hadley said. "Their size did give us trouble. We had good opportunities going to the basket, but we shot less than 50% from the free throw line, and in a game like this, that's the difference."
Going into the season, Brea Olinda Coach Jeff Sink thought his young team was a year away from competing for a state title.
As it turned out, his sixth trip to the finals arrived ahead of schedule, and even though the Wildcats lost to Oakland Bishop O'Dowd, 55-40, the future looks very bright for his program.
"I'm more proud of this team than any other I've coached," Sink said.
"We have seven freshmen on the roster, and this is such a big stage. I thought we played as good as we could in the first half. In the second half, we had to gamble on slowing the game down, but when you get behind, you have to abandon that strategy."
The game was tied 22-22 at halftime, and Brea Olinda (26-5) took a three-point lead early in the third quarter, but the Dragons answered with a 14-2 run over the next 5 1/2 minutes to seize control.
Junior guard Reili Richardson led all scorers with 19 points, and Tyiona Watkins added seven points and 13 rebounds for Brea Olinda, which was making its 12th state finals appearance.
Aisia Robertson had 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists, and Asha Thomas had 12 points and five assists for Bishop O'Dowd (25-9), which defeated Windward to win the inaugural Open Division state title in 2013.
Mariana Ecija scored 14 points and Alaysia Styles added 10 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocks as La Jolla Country Day held off Eastside College Prep, 40-36. Mai-Loni Henson had eight rebounds and six assists, and Isabel Aguirre made two free throws — her only points of the game — with 6.8 seconds remaining to clinch the victory for the Torreys (18-11), who lost to Pinewood in the Division V state final last year.
It was the first state finals appearance for the Panthers (25-6), who had only six players.