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Pacifica Christian girls’ basketball falls to Louisville in CIF Division 5A final

Annika Jiwani drives to the basket in the CIF Southern Section Division 5A girls' basketball championship.
Annika Jiwani drives to the basket on Louisville’s Katherine Csiszar, left, in the CIF Southern Section Division 5A girls’ basketball championship game at Pacifica Christian High on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

With Pacifica Christian Orange County High School in search of its first CIF title as a school, its girls’ basketball team trailed by seven points at halftime.

The Tritons came out firing on all cylinders to start the third quarter. Sophomore Charis Wondercheck converted on a three-point play, and freshman Annika Jiwani knocked down three free throws to cap off an 8-0 run for their first lead of the game at 28-27.

“I feel like we all came out really wanting this game more than anything,” freshman Lauryn Ham said. “After they went on a run, we got an energy kick back, and we really just decided to boost it up and work our hardest to get to where we could go.”

But the comeback fell short as Woodland Hills Louisville responded with a 7-0 run and never trailed again. The Royals earned a 57-49 win to claim the CIF Southern Section Division 5A title on Thursday night.

Pacifica Christian's Charis Wondercheck (1) drives hard between Louisville's Miye Kodama (21) and Kimberly Jackson.
Pacifica Christian’s Charis Wondercheck (1) drives hard between Louisville’s Miye Kodama (21) and Kimberly Jackson during the CIF Southern Section Division 5A girls’ basketball championship game at Pacifica Christian High on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“This means everything,” Louisville head coach Monica Hernandez said. “This whole tournament, I’ve tried to stress that it’s a game of runs. We did an excellent job. When it really counted, we stayed composed.”

The Royals, who have just one junior and no seniors, were led by freshman Taylor Westbrook’s 22 points, including eight in the fourth quarter. Westbrook provided back-to-back two-point buckets to halt a 6-0 run by the Tritons early in the fourth quarter.

“It’s all a team effort,” Westbrook said. “I practice every night with my teammates. It feels great to win.”

Louisville (10-3) came out to a frenetic start, making steals on the opening two possessions and keeping Pacifica Christian (15-5) off the scoreboard for the first four minutes and 52 seconds of the game.

Pacifica Christian's Nola Mihaly-Garvin, left, and Katherine Csiszar wrestle for a loose ball.
Pacifica Christian’s Nola Mihaly-Garvin, left, and Katherine Csiszar wrestle for a loose ball during the CIF Southern Section Division 5A girls’ basketball championship game against Louisville of Woodland Hills on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Freshman guard Alyssa Saldana, who controlled the game’s tempo, and junior forward Katherine Csiszar, who owned the boards and the paint, combined for 25 points. Saldana helped extend the Royals’ lead early in the second quarter with a deep three-pointer, but the Tritons had a three-point response from Ham.

The freshman guard knocked down three triples over the course of the night, leading Pacifica Christian with 15 points.

“She was seeing the gaps and creating opportunities for herself,” Pacifica Christian head coach James Parker said.

The Tritons ran into a roadblock as their freshman sharpshooter Jiwani ran into foul trouble, forcing Parker to pull her out of the game for several valuable second-half minutes.

Pacifica Christian defender Charis Wondercheck (1) blocks a layup by Louisville's Taylor Westbrook.
Pacifica Christian defender Charis Wondercheck (1) blocks a layup by Louisville’s Taylor Westbrook during the CIF Southern Section Division 5A girls’ basketball championship game at Pacifica Christian High on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“It was difficult,” Parker said of Jiwani, who finished with 11 points. “It would be nice if we were able to bring her out, not because of foul trouble, and let her gather herself. Being a young kid and trying to figure out how to let the game come to her is going to be key for her.”

With 2:15 to go in the game, Pacifica Christian managed to cut the deficit to 52-45. Saldana made a smart play to eat up precious seconds before the freshman floated in a shot. Westbrook put the icing on the cake by converting an offensive rebound into a basket in the final minute of the game to secure the victory and the title for the Royals.

After a delayed season that nearly never happened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pacifica Christian had a gracious attitude despite the defeat.

“I’m so proud of our team,” Ham said. “We worked so hard. We were on the grind all summer. I’m truly just really proud of our team. This is a tough loss, but I know we’re going to use it to fuel ourselves in the future.”

Pacifica Christian guard Lauryn Ham drains a three-point basket during the CIF Division 5A girls' basketball final.
Pacifica Christian guard Lauryn Ham drains a three-point basket during the CIF Southern Section Division 5A girls’ basketball championship game against Woodland Hills Louisville on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

CIF Southern Section Division 5A Final

Louisville 57, Pacifica Christian 49

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Louisville 14 – 13 – 15 – 15 — 57

Pacifica Christian 5 – 15 – 10 – 19 — 49

PC – Ham 15, Jiwani 11, Wondercheck 11, Mihaly-Garvin 6, Mackay 4, Eddy 2.

3-pt. goals – Ham 3.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

L – Westbrook 22, Csiszar 14, Saldana 11, Kodama 8, Jackson 2.

3-pt. goals – Saldana 1.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

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