She was so quiet, you could hear a State title drop.
A team that puts so much merit in the talents of one player can easily be suppressed the same way, as Costa Mesa learned amid a stream of tears Saturday night at Oakland Coliseum Arena, where the girls’ Division III State championship was contested in front of a crowd of 12,506.
Starting from tip-off, Sacramento St. Francis put a variety of roadblocks in the path of Costa Mesa forward Olivia DiCamilli, and was rewarded with a 50-43 victory.
DiCamilli, who averaged 20 points in the regular season and bumped it up to 31 in postseason, was held to an unfathomable eight points.
“Eight points,” Costa Mesa Coach Lisa McNamee repeated in whisper tones before her voice returned to normal. “When Olivia scores eight points, we’re not playing our game.”
McNamee acknowledged St. Francis’ defense on Costa Mesa in general, and DiCamilli in particular, had a great deal to do with the Mustangs’ undoing.
“We didn’t set good screens on our offense because of their defense,” McNamee said. “We weren’t screening anything like we usually do. They were roughing up Olivia pretty good.”
DiCamilli’s offensive problems were traced to Andee Whalen, who often looked like she was checking for cavities as much as guarding her.
Troubadours’ Coach Dave Parsh has assigned Whalen to the opposition’s top scorer all season and figured his feisty 5-foot-7 forward was up to the job.
“We knew (DiCamilli) scored 50% of her team’s points, and if we could control her, we’d have a pretty good chance of winning,” Parsh said. “And we know (Whalen) will rise to the occasion.”
And Costa Mesa, which finished the season 29-5 and had its 25-game winning streak snapped, didn’t.
The Mustangs sputtered around in the beginning and never fully turned it around, something no team can afford to do at this level.
“You can’t stink up the place and expect to be a winner,” McNamee said in reference to the first half, when the Mustangs were eight of 24 from the field.
St. Francis (27-5) came into the game with four of its five starters averaging double figures, and the Troubadours stayed the course against Costa Mesa. Starters Camille Gutierrez (12 points), Whalen (11) and Mindy Bagatelos (10) did the bulk of the scoring, and Colleen Gately came off the bench to contribute eight.
The Troubadours led, 11-9, at the end of the first quarter and extended it to 31-19 at the half.
St. Francis led by as much as 14 points midway through the third quarter, but Costa Mesa hadn’t come this far to roll over and quit.
With 4:26 left, the Mustangs pulled to 43-38, after Jessica Lurmann hit a three-pointer and Yool Kim hit one of two free throws.
“Good teams come back,” DiCamilli said. “We got something going, but we couldn’t keep it going.”
Said junior guard Heather Robinson, who picked up much of the scoring slack and led Costa Mesa with 18 points: “I started thinking we could come back, but we didn’t do the things we did to get us here.”
Things like protect the ball. Just as quickly as Costa Mesa closed the gap, St. Francis replenished it.
Gutierrez stole the ball at midcourt and drove for a layup, and teammate Whalen mimicked the play with her own steal and field goal to give St. Francis a 47-38 lead with 2:45 left.
How key were those steals in Parsh’s judgment?
“Ever been to the Grand Canyon? . . . They were huge,” he said.
Immediately after her final high school game, DiCamilli took defeat hard, but the wounds soon began to mend as she put the day’s events in perspective.
“Even right now, I’m not as bad as I was a little while ago,” she said. “I can look back on the whole season and realize it was a success. What we did was the most successful a (Costa) Mesa team has ever been.”
But she still couldn’t explain why the team that defeated a tough Inglewood Morningside a week ago in the Southern California title game came back a week later and couldn’t seem to get the ball into her hands.
“I don’t know,” she said. “It just wasn’t one of our better nights. I felt good, sometimes you can’t do it.”
McNamee attributed her team’s lack of intensity partly to strange surroundings.
“I think that it was hard for us to come up here,” said McNamee, who is undecided on whether she will return to Costa Mesa and may explore other coaching options.
Then she hinted there was more.
“I think they thought they had it won,” she said. “They came back after the first quarter and said, ‘Hey, they’re good,” and I said we told you they’re good . . . I thought they were hanging the plaque on the wall before we got it.”