ANAHEIM – David nearly had enough firepower in his arsenal to knock off another giant.
Three days after taking down second-seeded El Toro, the Huntington Beach girls' basketball team gave Summit all it could handle in Friday's CIF Southern Section Division 1A championship game at Anaheim Arena, and it took the top-ranked SkyHawks all they could muster, to avoid being slayed by the third-seeded Oilers. Summit managed to score the final five points of the game to pull out a 56-51 victory to give the school its first Southern Section title in girls' basketball.
The Oilers, who were making their first championship game appearance in 34 years – they also finished runner-up in 1978 – faced a nine-point deficit late in the third quarter but their heart and determination in the final eight minutes, nearly overcame a distinct height disadvantage against the taller SkyHawks.
The score was tied at 51-51 with 1:10 left in the game before Summit reeled off the winning points.
"We're never out of games. Never. The kids know my motto all year, which is, ‘Go for it,’” said Huntington Beach Coach Russ McClurg who, as he uttered the words, senior point guard Kelsey Minato, sitting to McClurg's left during the postgame press conference, repeated in sync and aloud. "We've been underdogs all year and playing against giants [El Toro, Summit], I was hoping we'd be David again tonight. We just came up short."
In a game where Huntington led early and Summit fought back to lead at the end of the final three quarters, it was the SkyHawks who were able to piece together several key runs that helped them go in front. Three times in the first three quarters they used 7-0 runs to build their advantage, then turned their final run, a 5-0 spurt over the final minute, into a CIF title.
Sunset League co-champion Huntington (25-5) tied the score at 51-51 when sophomore guard Paola Roa scored on a follow shot off a miss by senior point guard Kelsey Minato. Turned out, it was the final score for the Oilers. Summit took the lead for good when 6-foot-2 senior forward Jillian Alleyne, who played on the same youth club basketball team as Minato and Huntington senior guard Maya Kennedy, drove past the Oilers Jill Nakaso, hit a lay-up and was fouled by Kennedy. Alleyne dropped in the free throw with 49 seconds left and the three-point play, which gave her a team-high 17 points to go along with a game-high 20 rebounds, put the SkyHawks up, 54-51.
On Huntington's ensuing possession, Minato missed an inside shot but the Oilers grabbed the rebound. Kennedy then missed from three-point range from the top of the key, Summit rebounded and the SkyHawk's Haley McKinley was fouled by Minato. McKinley calmly dropped in two foul shots and Summit was on top, 56-51, with 28 seconds left.
In the final 14 seconds, Kennedy missed again from three-point range and Summit's A'jaee Foster missed the front end of a one-and-one situation, but the Oilers couldn't get a shot off before the final horn.
The play that turned the game was the three-point play by Alleyne.
"Anytime you see a team get second and third shots, it's tough to beat that team," McClurg said. "Jillian [Alleyne] is every bit the player she's advertised to be. She's good. Great players do great things and she made that play at the end that gave them the lead."
Alleyne nearly drove the entire length of the floor on her game-winning shot. Her ability to drive in such a manner, despite her 6-2 frame, is one of her strength's, Summit Coach Latrina Duncan said.
"She's like a gazelle out there," Duncan said of Alleyne. "She's so fluid running down floor running like that."
Summit, which dropped to Division 1A this year after playing in Division 1AA, had its hands full from the start with Huntington. The Oilers pressed and ran, swarmed and hustled, and led early on. It was a three-to-five point spread much of the game until Summit twice built its lead to nine points at the start and near the end of the third quarter.
"First of all, I had heard that [Huntington] could shoot the ball, but I didn't realize that, they can shoot the ball," Duncan said. "At one point in the first half, we were trading baskets with them. That wasn't our game plan. We had the advantage inside but we weren't taking advantage of it. We made some adjustments at halftime and went to our inside game in the second half.
"That No. 5 [Minato], she's a great player. We made sure we ‘D-ed’ her in the second half."
Minato, a four-year varsity performer, played spectacularly on offense in the title game. She had 10 of Huntington's 16 first-quarter points as the Oilers took a 16-11 lead. She had 15 points by halftime but the Oilers trailed, 27-24, at the break. Summit had seven different players score by the half in building its three-point lead. The SkyHawks trailed, 21-18 after a jump shot by Minato, but went on to outscore the Oilers, 9-3, over the final 5:45 of the half.
Summit, which was founded in 2006 - 100 years after Huntington opened its doors, scored the first four points of the second half to build a 31-27 lead. A three-point shot by Kennedy ended a 7-0 run by the SkyHawks. Summit was up, 42-33, after Alleyne hit two free throws with 11 seconds left in the third quarter but Nakaso nailed a three-point shot from the corner six seconds later. The junior forward, who scored her only basket of the game, was clobbered on the play by Alleyne but missed her foul shot. Still, Nakaso's big basket pulled the Oilers to within 42-36 heading into the fourth quarter.
A lay-up by Minato and a pair of three-point shots by Kennedy in the first two minutes of the final quarter, brought Huntington into a 44-44 tie. Summit was up three (49-46) when Adrianna Brodie hit a fade-away shot inside the key but the Oilers knotted the score one final time at 51-51 when Roa scored with just over a minute to play.
Minato added seven rebounds to her 24 points and Kennedy, another four-year varsity player, was the other Oiler in double figures with 14 points with six rebounds.
Summit out-rebounded Huntington, 29-19, in a game that had six lead changes and was tied on eight occasions.
"We had a great year," said McClurg, who was coaching in his fourth Southern Section title game. Three times he led Calvary Chapel/Santa Ana to a CIF final, winning a title in 1999. "We had a nice following and had great alumni support here. I'm very proud of what the girls accomplished."
Despite Friday's loss, the season isn't over for Huntington. The Oilers will compete next Wednesday in the CIF State Championships SoCal Regional tournament in Ontario. McClurg said the Oilers wiIl learn the identity of their first-round opponent on Sunday.
Summit, which was playing in its second Southern Section final in the last three years, also will compete at the SoCal Regional.