Queens of clutch: Sage Hill rallies past San Joaquin Memorial in CIF State Division II final
With its flair for the dramatic, the Sage Hill School girls’ basketball team was never out of a game.
Almost nothing went right for the Lightning offensively in the first half, but by digging in defensively, a team of destiny ensured that it had a chance in the closing moments again.
Emily Eadie scored the go-ahead layup with 27 seconds remaining, capping a record-setting season for Sage Hill with a 51-47 win over Fresno San Joaquin Memorial in the CIF State Division II final on Saturday at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.
Sage Hill (27-10) rallied from a 13-point second-quarter deficit to claim the first state title in school history.
A mid-range jumper by Kat Righeimer with 11 seconds left in the first quarter gave Sage Hill its first lead of 6-5. The Lightning would not lead again until Eadie made a layup at the end of a second-chance opportunity earned by Annabelle Spotts with 1:03 left in the game to make it 46-45.
Malaysia Williams banked in a floater off the glass on the next possession for San Joaquin Memorial (27-7), retaking a one-point lead.
As it had on two prior occasions in the Southern California regional playoffs, Sage Hill came up with an answer in the clutch, taking the lead inside the final minute. Coming out of a timeout, Eadie received the inbounds pass at the top of the key and drove the left side of the lane for the eventual game-winning bucket.
“The first thing you’ve got to do is just get the ball in,” Eadie said of the game-winning play in a postgame interview. “I knew that they were going to press right here because Isabel [Gomez] can shoot threes — making them all game. I knew that was going to be open, so I went with my gut, and it worked out.”
Following a defensive stop by the Lightning, Williams was called for an intentional foul, giving Sage Hill two free throws plus possession of the ball. Gomez, a senior point guard, sank both shots. When Righeimer was fouled and converted the first free throw thereafter, Sage Hill salted the game away with a two-possession advantage with five seconds to go.
Gomez had a game-high 14 points to go with 11 rebounds, two assists and two steals. One of those assists included a sidearm toss into the right corner for Zoie Lamkin, who made a key three-pointer with 3:52 left to narrow the deficit to 41-40.
Sage Hill, which has several players that played for Kobe Bryant in the Mamba Sports Academy, takes on Fresno San Joaquin Memorial in the CIF State Division II girls’ basketball final on Saturday.
“Once she hit that shot, you could see the energy of our team just go up,” Sage Hill coach Kerwin Walters said. “It just went up. It lit up when she hit that shot because now she’s confident. She just hit one, and she can hit another one, and now it puts more stress on the other defense to actually guard her out there. Good lord. That was a big shot.”
Sage Hill had drawn even with San Joaquin Memorial twice before Eadie’s late, lead-trading layups. The Lightning finally caught up on a three-pointer from the top of the key by Gomez that made it 33-33 with 1:26 left in the third quarter. Then in the fourth quarter, Righeimer showed finesse with a reverse layup to tie the score at 42-42 with 3:19 to go.
Eadie finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Spotts had eight points — six in the third quarter — and five rebounds. Megan Shean and Kiana Hosseinzadeh also saw the court for Sage Hill, Shean grabbing a rebound in her six minutes.
“I have confidence in Megan Shean and Kiana in the fact that once we put them on the floor, they’re going to do what’s right for this team,” Walters said of the reserve tandem. “Today, what was right for this team is that they came in for those nine minutes … and provided energy, got rebounds and made it difficult on the other team.”
After winning the program’s first CIF Southern Section title against Ontario Christian in the Division 3AA final last season, Sage Hill earned its first state championship in a higher division. The Lightning also set a school record with 27 wins in a single season.
This Sage Hill team will forever be connected to the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others, including their Mamba Sports Academy teammates Gianna Bryant, Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, as well as coach Christina Mauser. Eadie, Lamkin, Righeimer and Spotts — all sophomores — were members of that team.
Eadie, who channeled her Mamba Mentality by taking and making big shots in big moments, was asked what her late coaches, teammates and friends would think of what they had accomplished after the win.
“Honestly, really proud,” Eadie said. “This is what we’ve been working for the whole year, and we did it, so they definitely would be just really proud of us.”
Meadow Roland had 10 points and two blocked shots to pace San Joaquin Memorial, which had won 17 games in a row coming into the state final. Williams provided eight points, Asha Sra seven points, and Alexis Swillis six points and 13 rebounds. Saiya Sidhu made two three-pointers to account for her six points, and Haley Duvall also had six points.
CIF State Division II championship game
Sage Hill 51, Fresno San Joaquin Memorial 47
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Sage Hill 6 – 10 – 17 – 18 — 51
San Joaquin Memorial 5 – 17 – 14 – 11 — 47
SH — Gomez 14, Eadie 13, Righeimer 11, Spotts 8, Lamkin 5.
3-pt. goals — Gomez 2, Eadie 1, Righeimer 1, Lamkin 1.
Fouled out — None.
Technicals — None.
SJM — Roland 10, Williams 8, Sra 7, Swillis 6, Sidhu 6, Duvall 6, Ramos 4.
3-pt. goals — Sidhu 2, Sra 1, Duvall 1.
Fouled out — None.
Technicals — None.
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7:19 p.m. March 12, 2022: This story was updated with comments from Sage Hill coach Kerwin Walters.
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