What started out as a mismatch ended up being a struggle to the end for West Hills Chaminade in the CIF state Open Division girls' championship game Saturday night at Sleep Train Arena.
However, that only made the Eagles' 80-71 triumph over Orinda Miramonte even sweeter. Chaminade took the opponent's best shots, but, in the end, the Eagles' own 1-2 punch of USC-bound Valerie Higgins and Duke-bound Leaonna Odom proved too much for the previously unbeaten Matadors.
Odom celebrated her birthday by scoring an Open Division-record 33 points and 15 rebounds, Higgins added 16 points, seven rebounds, four blocks and four steals and Melissa Wright had 15 points, 11 rebounds and four steals for Southern Section Open Division champion Chaminade (31-4).
"When they took the lead I said to myself OK, they're winning take a deep breath, regroup, refocus and do what you have to do to win," Higgins said.
Trailing by as many as 20 points in the second quarter, Miramonte crept to within 10 by halftime and Keana Delos Santos made a corner three-pointer to give the Matadors their first lead, 53-51, with 1:32 left in the third quarter.
Just when it seemed the Eagles would crack under pressure, they responded like champions, outscoring Miramonte, 29-18, the rest of the way.
Sabrina Ionescu had 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for Miramonte (32-1), which had won every previous game by double digits.
San Bernardino Cajon showed against Elk Grove that defense does indeed win championships.
The Cowboys held Elk Grove scoreless for a span of 8 minutes 35 seconds on their way to a 55-36 victory in their first state finals appearance. They scored 19 straight points, scoring the last two of the third quarter and 17 straight in the fourth, to turn a 32-21 deficit into a commanding 48-34 lead.
"In the fourth [quarter] we focused on pressuring their guards, hustling for loose balls, boxing out on rebounds and getting as many possessions as we could," said senior guard Tyra Turner, who totaled seven points, three assists and five steals before fouling out with 1:34 left.
Tyla Turner and Kayla Washington each scored 17 points for Cajon (27-6), which lost to Chatsworth Sierra Canyon and Westlake Village Oaks Christian in the Southern Section Open Division playoffs. Cajon had a one-point lead at the half despite 13 turnovers.
Mira Shulman led Elk Grove with 15 points, including a pair of free throws to end her team's scoring drought. The Thundering Herd (24-11) were outscored, 24-4, in the fourth quarter.
Antelope Valley's Tyler Smith drove to the basket in the final seconds but her shot in the lane was blocked at the buzzer by Lauren Walker from Santa Rose Cardinal Newman, which earned its first state title with a 39-37 win.
"I'm heartbroken right now," said Smith, who finished with 10 points and received the Sportsmanship Award. "I was just trying to push the ball up the floor, but I forced it. I should've used better judgment."