What a difference a year has made for Troy.
The Warriors, who won their first 27 games last season playing a mostly soft schedule and then got beat in the playoffs, got hard on itself with this season’s schedule, searching out the toughest competition available.
It paid off Thursday. Sixth-ranked Troy won the first Orange County Championship at Edison High with a 60-56 victory over second-ranked Mater Dei.
The Warriors (11-3) prevailed over a field that included seven of the county’s top 10 teams. Last year, they played only one regular season game against a top 10 team, beating San Clemente by 16 points, then losing to the Tritons in the second round of the playoffs.
“Getting to the section finals against Brea [in 1997] was nice,” said fourth-year Coach Kevin Kiernan, “but this is a great tournament, and to win it. . . .”
“It’s the biggest win I’ve had since I’ve been coach.”
Winning against Mater Dei (12-2) avenged a 56-54 loss last week in the consolation final of the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions Open Division.
“Today was all about wanting it as a team,” said tournament most valuable player Veronica Johns-Richardson, who scored 20 points and had five steals and six assists. “Everyone is stepping up.”
Like Alicia Komaki, who came off the bench and made three three-point baskets in a second-quarter barrage in which the Warriors made five of nine and built a 32-24 halftime lead.
Like Kianey Givens-Davis, who is on the floor for her defense and rebounding, but scored 12 points, six in the fourth quarter, as Troy held off a Monarch rally in which they cut a 10-point deficit to three.
Like 6-foot-1 freshman Amanda Livingston, who had only four points and two rebounds, but didn’t let Mater Dei’s Lindsay Pavlik (seven points, 12 rebounds) run rampant.
“Statistically, Givens-Davis and Livingston maybe didn’t do much, but they were physical, took up space and gave us an inside presence,” Kiernan said. “And that’s what you have to have to beat a good team like Mater Dei.”
The Monarchs closed to 56-52 with 1:11 remaining, and a putback by Kristian Kirkpatrick (14 points) made it 59-56 with 26 seconds left. But Troy’s free-throw shooting in the final minute, making four of six, was too much.
No. 9 Edison 50, No. 3 El Toro 44--Holding a three-point lead, Ashley Noda’s three-point basket sparked a 7-2 fourth-quarter run, and Bianca Ziemann (12 points) scored six of the of third-place Edison’s last nine points. Michelle Zylstra (17 rebounds, four blocks) scored 16 for Edison (8-7), and Giuliana Mendiola scored 27 for El Toro (8-4).
No. 5 San Clemente 58, No. 4 Foothill 45--The Tritons’ dominating pressure defense limited Foothill to four points in the first quarter and helped them to a 30-12 halftime lead. Megan Blackshire led fifth-place San Clemente with 18 points.
No. 10 Rosary 52, Laguna Hills 33--Jen Farner scored 22 and Jenise Karcher 16 for the seventh-place Royals 11-4).