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Kat Righeimer’s last-second shot sends Sage Hill girls’ basketball to state finals

Sage Hill's Annabelle Spotts, left, and Kat Righeimer, right, embrace Isabel Gomez (24).
Sage Hill’s Annabelle Spotts, left, and Kat Righeimer, right, shares an embrace with Isabel Gomez (24) after winning the CIF State Southern California Regional Division II girls’ basketball final against Corona Santiago on the road Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The Sage Hill School girls’ basketball team had a tough act to follow.

Coming off the first CIF Southern Section title in program history last season, the Lightning fell short of their goal to repeat but had more games on the horizon.

The encore will reach its climax this weekend, as Kat Righeimer made the game-winning jump shot with 1.3 seconds remaining to give visiting Sage Hill a 43-41 win Tuesday over top-seeded Corona Santiago in the CIF State Southern California Regional Division II final.

Sage Hill (26-10) will play Fresno San Joaquin Memorial (27-6) in the Division II state championship game at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. San Joaquin Memorial, the No. 5 seed in the Northern California bracket, defeated Antelope 50-38 in the other regional final.

The Sage Hill girls' basketball team poses with the championship trophy.
The Sage Hill girls’ basketball team poses with the championship trophy after winning the CIF State Southern California Regional Division II girls’ basketball final against Corona Santiago.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Righeimer curled to the left corner with Isabel Gomez inbounding from the near sideline with six seconds remaining. The sophomore guard received a bounce pass and went up for the shot without hesitation.

“When I was cutting open, I didn’t think I was open at first,” Righeimer said. “Then I saw it in the corner of my eye. I took one dribble, and then after I shot it, that release just felt really good and promising, and then after it went in, it was just such good relief and joy.”

After Jayda Cobbs threw a runner off the glass that stayed out, the Lightning celebrated in front of their bench.

The state playoff run has seen Sage Hill earn wins against Nipomo, Long Beach Poly, Ontario Christian and Santiago (24-10), the last three victories coming on the road. The regional semifinal against Ontario Christian was a rematch of the Division 3AA title game last season.

Sage Hill's Kat Righeimer (11) runs up the court after sinking the game-winning basket against Corona Santiago on Tuesday.
Sage Hill’s Kat Righeimer (11) runs up the court after sinking the game-winning basket in the CIF State Southern California Regional Division II girls’ basketball final against Corona Santiago on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

In its return to the CIF finals last month, Sage Hill lost to Orange Lutheran 66-61 in the Division 2AA final.

“We’ve played in rugged games,” Sage Hill coach Kerwin Walters said. “We’ve played in tough games, and our girls just stay with it. That’s the one thing about us. We just stay with it. Regardless of what’s going on, adversity, craziness, it doesn’t matter, fans, anything, we just stay with it. That’s a testament to them. They do a great job of just staying in the moment.”

Righeimer had a game-high 16 points with nine rebounds. She scored seven points over the last 3:21, including a pullup three-pointer that gave Sage Hill a 41-33 lead with under three minutes to go.

Santiago, which never led, refused to go quietly. McKinley Willardson scored five second-chance points in a span of 50 seconds, and Cobbs netted the tying three-pointer with 12 seconds on the clock.

Sage Hill's Isabel Gomez, right, is pressured by Corona Santiago's Makayla Fugate.
Sage Hill’s Isabel Gomez, right, is pressured by Makayla Fugate during the CIF State Southern California Regional Division II girls’ basketball final against Corona Santiago on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

When it mattered most, the ball was put in the hands of Gomez, the only senior starter for either team in the game. She found Righeimer open in the corner following a timeout called by Walters once the Lightning had brought the ball across midcourt.

Gomez also had a critical three-point play with 3:34 left, putting Sage Hill back in the lead at 36-33 after Santiago had rallied from an 11-point deficit to tie the score. On the play, Emily Eadie and Gomez fought for the rebound, Gomez scooping up the loose ball and going coast to coast for the layup.

A senior point guard who said she plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania and hopes to be a walk-on player, Gomez starts alongside four sophomores in Zoie Lamkin, Annabelle Spotts, Eadie and Righeimer.

“I’m super lucky to have the chance to play with them,” said Gomez, who finished with nine points, seven rebounds and two assists. “The four of them, I’m so lucky that they came to Sage and that they’re in my life, in general. I couldn’t imagine the past two years without them, and it’s been great. I love playing with all of them. They get the job done.”

Sage Hill's Emily Eadie (1) drives past Corona Santiago's Jayda Cobbs in the key for a basket on Tuesday.
Sage Hill’s Emily Eadie (1) drives past Jayda Cobbs in the key for a basket during the CIF State Southern California Regional Division II girls’ basketball final against Corona Santiago on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Eadie had 14 points, 11 rebounds and two assists for Sage Hill. Spotts scored two points to go with seven rebounds and two steals, and Lamkin had two points, two rebounds and a blocked shot.

Willardson scored a team-high 13 points with four rebounds for Santiago. Cobbs had 11 points and eight rebounds. Makayla Fugate added seven points, and Sierra Macias chipped in with two points, four steals, three rebounds and three assists.

“We did a comeback in the [Division 2A] finals, took the hearts out of Ontario Christian,” Santiago coach Michael Mitchell said. “[Sage Hill] came and did it to us. I think that’s their second or third win that they’ve won on a last-second shot. I was sitting there going, ‘It’s going to come down to a last-second shot. … Yes, it is. There it is.’

“I couldn’t have been too disappointed. I got everybody coming back. We’ll make adjustments over the summer, get stronger and be able to play in the next division.”

Sage Hill's Annabelle Spotts secures a rebound as she goes down in a scrum against Corona Santiago on Tuesday.
Sage Hill’s Annabelle Spotts secures a rebound as she goes down in a scrum during the CIF State Southern California Regional Division II girls’ basketball final against Corona Santiago on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

CIF State Southern California Regional Division II final

Sage Hill 43, Santiago 41

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Sage Hill 12 – 7 – 14 – 10 — 43

Santiago 6 – 10 – 8 – 17 — 41

SH Righeimer 16, Eadie 14, Gomez 9, Lamkin 2, Spotts 2.

3-pt. goals Righeimer 2, Gomez 2, Eadie 1.

Fouled out — None.

Technicals — None.

S — Willardson 13, Cobbs 11, Fugate 7, Taylor 4, Washington 3, Macias 2, Ghent 1.

3-pt. goals Cobbs 2.

Fouled out — None.

Technicals None.

::

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