The Corona del Mar High girls’ basketball team and Lancaster arrived at Wednesday night’s CIF Southern Section Division 3AA quarterfinal playoff game via dramatically different journeys.
For the visiting Eagles, their travel time exceeded two hours en route to Newport Beach.
On the flip side, the Sea Kings surprised many with their deepest playoff run under fourth-year coach Brason Alexander.
Both teams showed that they did not want the journey to end in a low-scoring physical affair.
Rayshanti McNeal-Price had 15 points and nine rebounds to lead Lancaster to a 34-28 victory at CdM.
“It was great,” McNeal-Price said of the tightly-contested game. “It was tough. I had to get big, bigger than usual, but me and my teammates, we made it through. We rebounded, we got the ball, and we did what we are supposed to do. We took care of the ball.”
McNeal-Price impacted the game in a variety of ways. She made a baseline jumper and executed a back-down move on the block on back-to-back possessions to give the Eagles a 16-7 lead with 1:57 to go in the first half.
The junior power forward scored in every quarter. Her final basket put Lancaster (20-7) back in the lead at 26-24 with 5:10 remaining.
On the previous possession, Nia Halafuka found Trasara Alexander for a three-pointer that tied the score for the first time since McNeal-Price had broken a scoreless tie more than four minutes into the game.
The Sea Kings did not score until there was 1:02 remaining in the first quarter, when Alexander pulled up for a long jumper near the top of the arc.
From there, CdM (23-8) trailed by as many as 10 points in the third quarter. Dorothy Schwenck started the comeback when she combined on an inside-outside play with Makena Tomlinson for a three-pointer.
Halafuka converted a driving hook shot to leave the Sea Kings down just 22-17 going into the final frame.
Mea Madison scored five of her 10 points in the fourth quarter, including a three-point play with 46.6 seconds to go that gave the Eagles a two-possession edge at 32-28.
Timiah Lenard handed out five assists for the Eagles. Brooklyn Curry also had four points and nine rebounds.
“The drive was worth it,” Eagles coach Jessica Morrison said. “[The Sea Kings are] a great basketball team. They’re young, and they play really hard, and they’re very well coached. We had to do a lot of preparation for them.
“They deserve to be here, too. I’m just glad my kids didn’t quit.”
Lancaster will stay on the road to face top-seeded Santa Monica in the semifinals on Saturday.
Alexander had a team-high 14 points to go with six rebounds and two assists for CdM, which was the second-place team in the Surf League this season and the last remaining local girls’ basketball team in the playoffs.
Tomlinson added six points and six rebounds for the Sea Kings.
“As much as this sucks because you miss an opportunity, this team has been phenomenal,” Brason Alexander said. “They have worked for 10 months.”
Guard Tori Gyselaar then walked into the gym, and Alexander could not take his mind off of her contributions in leading by example.
“That senior right there has been their glue and their hardest worker,” he said. “There is no way we get this good without her. I’m ecstatic with this team.”
Gyselaar provided three points, four steals, three rebounds and two assists in her final game for the Sea Kings.
“This team has probably been my best friends,” Gyselaar said. “I will never forget any of them. They are my sisters. They are my support group. They are what gets me through the day every day.
“Wearing No. 11 has been great these past several years. I’ve loved playing CdM basketball with all my heart. It’s changed my life. It’s made me a better person overall, and I will never forget any of the memories that I have made here.”
CIF Southern Section Division 3AA playoffs
Lancaster 34, Corona del Mar 28
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Lancaster 7 – 9 – 6 – 12 — 34
Corona del Mar 2 – 6 – 9 – 11 — 28
L – McNeal-Price 15, Madison 10, Curry 4, Lopez 3, Lenard 2.
3-pt. goals – Lopez 1, Madison 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
CdM – Alexander 14, Tomlinson 6, Gyselaar 3, Schwenck 3, Halafuka 2.
3-pt. goals – Alexander 1, Schwenck 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
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