Girls’ Basketball: Late three denies HB in finals
AZUSA — On multiple fronts, Huntington Beach High girls’ basketball coach Russell McClurg felt that he watched a clip that he had seen before on Friday evening.
A shot came off the rim. It was tipped out to the arc. A shot was released from the left corner, and when it had landed, the entire complexion of the game had changed.
That is how the Oilers’ title hopes were dashed in the CIF Southern Section Division 1A championship game.
Jessica Malazarte sunk the go-ahead three-pointer with 31 seconds remaining, and fourth-seeded Torrance Bishop Montgomery defeated Huntington Beach, 41-38, at the Felix Event Center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University.
Frankie Wade-Sanchez had made both ends of a one-and-one free-throw opportunity to put the Oilers (22-8) ahead, 38-36, with 1:02 to go.
On the ensuing possession, the Knights (21-9) were late in the shot clock when Kayla Padilla put up a desperation jump shot. She managed to get to the rebound and tap it out to Malazarte.
The Fresno-Pacific commit was one for 10 on three-pointers before that attempt, but her last was the most important basket of them all.
“It will remind me of the Sacramento/Lakers game,” McClurg said, referencing the celebrated game-winner by Lakers forward Robert Horry in Game 4 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals.
Frankie Wade-Sanchez provided the defensive perspective of the game’s key play.
“I remember that I was going up for the rebound,” she said. “It was like I almost jumped too early. [Padilla] tipped it out. I was running to get it, and then I got screened. That’s how they were able to get the shot off.”
The Oilers had multiple attempts at the basket on their next possession, but a loose ball was finally secured by the Knights with under 10 seconds to go.
A foul by Rachel Harris sent Malazarte to the free-throw line with 5.7 seconds left. She missed the front end of the one-and-one situation, but Sophia Carroll pulled down the rebound for Bishop Montgomery.
To the Oilers’ detriment, starting center Xolani Hodel had fouled out of the game with 3:12 left. The freshman’s size and athleticism might have helped to grab the mandatory rebound.
More time had ticked off the clock, and after Carroll made both of her attempts, there were only 3.1 seconds remaining. Wade-Sanchez received the inbounds pass. She took three steps and then tried to throw the ball like a baseball player into the hoop.
It fell short, and the Oilers were left to watch the Knights celebrate.
“You don’t remember stats,” Knights Coach Noelle Quinn said. “I don’t remember any stats from high school, but I just remember moments and feelings. This is a moment that they’re never going to forget.”
The experience of Wade-Sanchez and Kaylyn Nakaji showed up in the championship game. Someone had to take the shots, and the four-year varsity members were not shy about doing so.
Between the two of them, they took 45 of the team’s 50 field-goal attempts (90%).
“Before the game, Coach Russ said that a lot of the offense was going to have to come through me and Frankie,” Nakaji said, addressing the disproportionate usage rate.
“That’s what most of our offense was centered around, but everyone else was looking for putbacks on rebounds and hustle points.”
Wade-Sanchez had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds by halftime. She finished the game with 29 points and 17 rebounds.
“I just go where I kind of feel that I’m needed,” the Concordia-bound senior said. “Definitely, on the boards this game, I was needed to go and get the rebound.”
The game turned into a war in the paint, as neither team had much success with the outside shot. That limited the runs and kept the game close. Bishop Montgomery’s biggest lead was six points (8-2, 3:21 left in the first quarter). Huntington Beach’s greatest advantage was five (17-12, 3:28 left in the second).
Padilla had 15 points, five rebounds, and three steals to lead the Knights. Malazarte added 14 points, five rebounds, and three assists.
As scarce as the runs were, Bishop Montgomery’s 5-0 run to start the fourth quarter was a big moment in the game. Malazarte made her first three-pointer off an assist from Padilla. A defensive stop was followed by a Malazarte layup on the other end, giving the Knights their first lead since the 4:40 mark of the third.
“In that second half, we knew the magnitude of the game,” Padilla said. “We wanted a championship, so I guess we had to let our emotions take over and let each other know that we need to get a ring.”
The Oilers lost their second final under McClurg. Huntington Beach also reached the Division 1A title game in 2012, falling to Fontana Summit, 56-51.
“It was a great game,” McClurg said of Friday night’s contest. “A lot of the kids are crying right now, and I’m crying on the inside. I couldn’t be more proud of the girls.”
Huntington Beach’s season will continue in the CIF State Division 2 tournament next week.
CIF-SS Division 1A Playoffs
Bishop Montgomery 41, Huntington Beach 38
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Huntington Beach – 10 - 7 - 12 - 9 – 38
Bishop Montgomery – 10 - 8 - 7 - 16 – 41
HB – Wade-Sanchez 29, Nakaji 7, Hodel 2.
3-pt. goals – Nakaji 1.
Fouled out – Hodel.
Technicals – None.
BM – Padilla 15, Malazarte 14, Carroll 6, Reynolds 2, Dyke 2, Anderson 2.
3-pt. goals – Malazarte 2.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.