Mounties Get Chance for Perfecta
Montclair Prep is inching closer to a perfect ending.
The Mounties (26-0), one of only two undefeated basketball teams in the region, defeated Santa Clara, 72-52, on Tuesday night at Oxnard College to advance to the Southern Section Division V-AA girls’ championship game on Saturday at the Pyramid in Long Beach.
The Mounties face top-seeded Brethren in the final at 11:15 a.m.
Can Montclair Prep, which has never advanced to a section final, actually run the table and finish without a loss?
Eshaya Murphy thinks so, and she has an awful lot to do with how the Mounties fare.
“I really think we can,” said Murphy, who scored a season-high 44 points and added 17 rebounds and seven steals.
“If we play together, no team can stop us. I believe that.”
Now, so does Santa Clara (15-13).
The Saints had a distinct size advantage, but 6-foot-3 senior Ashley Biggins and 6-foot Margaux Hallahan spent much of the game on the bench with foul trouble, allowing Murphy to run wild.
“When [Biggins] went out, the advantage went from theirs to ours,” Coach Bob Webb of Montclair Prep said.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Mounties led, 62-39, with Murphy matching the Saints with 39 points.
“I don’t look at points,” said Murphy, who is averaging a region-best 29.6. “I could have zero points and I’d be happy if we won.”
Murphy took more than half of third-seeded Montclair Prep’s shots, making 13 of 30, and was 16 for 17 from the free-throw line.
The rest of the team made six for 25 shots and was 16 of 21 from the line.
Jasmine Wesley, a senior center, added 11 points and 10 rebounds for Montclair Prep, which has defeated its four playoff opponents by a combined 78 points.
Webb and third-seeded Montclair Prep were confident going in, but didn’t expect to build a lead of 26 points against a team that upset second-seeded Pasadena Poly in the quarterfinals.
“When you get to this point, you never expect to win by 20,” he said.
Biggins had nine points and only three rebounds in 14 minutes.
Hallahan played only slightly more and also scored nine points.
Reserve Elizabeth Fernandez had 11 points and eight rebounds for Santa Clara, which was attempting to reach the final for the first time since 1989 and sixth time overall.
The semifinal also marked an unusual matchup of two first-year coaches.
Anna Vasquez of Santa Clara had a rocky start, beginning 1-6 before rallying to finish second to Santa Paula in the Frontier League and finished the regular season 12-12 before an improbable playoff run.
Webb, who coached the Mounties’ girls until 1997, gave up the job to take over the school’s boys’ program.
This was his first year back with the girls.
Buena (28-0), the region’s only other undefeated team, will play Fullerton Troy on Saturday night in the Division I-A championship game.