The scoreboard in the Los Angeles Sports Arena is high over center court, as is the case in many large arenas. Unless you look up, you can’t see it from midcourt.
Behind each basket along the upper-level seating is an auxiliary scoreboard. But if you are near midcourt heading toward the south basket, you can’t see it because a large set of speakers hangs from the roof.
Monica Filer couldn’t see the clock as she drove down the court for what would be the final shot of Point Loma High’s decade of girls’ basketball dominance.
It hardly seemed this would be of any significance earlier when Point Loma fell behind Morningside, 17-0, Saturday evening in the first 5 minutes of the Southern Regional Division I championship game. But with 11 seconds left, Filer grabbed a rebound and headed upcourt with a chance to win the game.
Filer thought the end was near when she let loose a 28-foot shot that banged off the backboard and into the hands of JoJo Witherspoon, preserving a 45-44 Morningside victory.
Everyone but Filer saw that there had been 7 seconds left, plenty of time for the nifty point guard to drive and get a better shot, or maybe a pass. Filer had already broken the Division I championship game record for assists (nine) and had two three-pointers among her team-high 20 points.
Said Filer, “I thought there was only 3 seconds left. I couldn’t see the scoreboard overhead because I didn’t want to look up. And I couldn’t see the other one because there was something in the way.”
After the miss, Witherspoon held onto the ball around the free-throw line for 5 seconds without anyone fouling her.
Morningside, the top-seeded team and No. 2 in the nation according to USA Today, advanced to the state final next Saturday in the Oakland Coliseum against Oakland Fremont, a 50-47 winner over Orinde Miramonte in the Northern Regional final.
For Point Loma to have a chance to win was nothing less than amazing. Of course, they have had some amazing moments in this tournament before.
The Pointers (32-2) have won four state titles before bowing out last season in the semifinals of the San Diego Section playoffs. In the decade, Point Loma redefined the word dominance in San Diego girls’ basketball, advancing to at least the section semifinals 10 consecutive years and never finishing with less than 22 victories in a season.
But Morningside is awesome. And they proved it early. Led by 6-foot-5 Lisa Leslie, who scored a game-high 22 points despite sitting out almost a full quarter with four fouls, they rolled to that 17-0 lead.
“Never. Never have I been that far down,” said Lee Trepanier, Point Loma’s coach.
And then came the great comeback. Morningside led by just 30-27 at halftime and then trailed Point Loma, 36-30, with 2:24 left in the third quarter. The game was tied, 36-36, heading into the fourth.
The lead changed hands for the eighth and final time on a turnaround eight-foot jump shot by Leslie with 55 seconds left.
Point Loma was called for a double dribble violation with 27 seconds left and then fouled Witherspoon with 13 seconds left. Witherspoon missed the front end of the one-and-one, and Leslie missed a short shot off the offensive rebound. Filer took the rebound then missed the final shot.
“We had a shot at them,” Trepanier said. “We just needed to take it to the hole. They sure have a great team though, don’t they?”
Like the ones Trepanier has had for a decade.