SANTA ANA — During its historic 2011-12 season, the Burbank High girls’ basketball team had never been
so outmatched and certainly never as soundly defeated as it was in Wednesday night’s opening-round contest of the Southern California Regional of the CIF State Division I Basketball Championships against top-seeded host Santa Ana Mater Dei.
Then again, the Bulldogs hadn’t played a team that burst onto the court through the jaws of a giant inflatable lion’s head against the thundering background of a laser light show either.
Burbank made its first-ever state tournament appearance, but did so at the cost of going up against the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA-champion Monarchs, a powerhouse in every sense of the word, boasting the No. 1 ranking in the state and No. 3 ranking in the nation by maxpreps.com and No. 9 spot in the nation by ESPN High School.
Using a relentless full-court press to force 27 total turnovers, Mater Dei built a substantial lead by halftime, broke the game wide open in the third period and enjoyed a running clock for most of the fourth quarter in ending Burbank’s season with a 77-35 loss.
“I don’t know if I have the answers [for the loss],” said Bulldogs Coach Bruce Breeden, who guided the program to its most successful finish in its history, going all the way to the Division I-A semifinals for the first time. “We worked hard for what they did and you just can’t emulate their speed and their height in practice.”
The 16th-seeded Bulldogs (19-13), who were led by Damarie Gonzalez’ 10 points, were tested early by Mater Dei’s press, but struggled even more in the halfcourt set, turning the ball over seven times in the first quarter and misfiring from the field en route to four of 16 shooting for the period.
But the Bulldogs also forced five Monarchs turnovers, outrebounded Mater Dei, 7-4, and stayed within seven at 16-9 on a buzzer-beating jumper by Gonzalez.
“Early, we were breaking [the press], we just couldn’t make the easy shots,” Breeden said. “We were probably a little nervous.”
Unfortunately for Burbank, Mater Dei (30-3), which was led by 25 points from Nirra Fields, was yet to fully flex its might. The Monarchs’ defense took over the game in the second quarter with seven steals and the easy offense followed shortly.
A 9-2 run over the first two and a half minutes of the second period put Mater Dei comfortably ahead, 27-11. Jordan Adams sparked the run with a putback, Alexas Williamson (20 points) continued it with a three-pointer from the corner and back-to-back steals from Kaija Powell led to a pair of fast-break layups.
The Monarchs, who defeated Brea Olinda, 54-47, Friday to capture the Division I-AA sectional championship, took a 39-16 lead into halftime and polished off the Bulldogs for good with a 31-0 run over the first 7:20 of the third quarter.
Burbank was utterly flummoxed by the press, turning the ball over on five straight steals at one point in the third, all of which were promptly cashed in for points.
Courtney Seidler scored eight points for the Bulldogs, who also got five from Jamie Gonzalez.
“It was a great year,” Breeden said. “Nobody would have put Burbank High in the state playoffs. It’s hard to go out this way, but I’m proud of the girls.”