Coach Vanessa Nygaard tells anyone who wants to listen that junior guard Charisma Osborne is the best female basketball player in California.
The proof of Osborne’s skills were on display on Friday night in the Southern Section Open Division championship game at the Pyramid in Long Beach. Scoring, passing and rebounding, the 5-foot-9 Osborne was the decisive factor as L.A. Windward knocked off top-seeded Studio City Harvard-Westlake 53-45.
“Charisma was Charisma,” Nygaard said. “She shows up in the big moments. She has that greatness.”
Osborne finished with 25 points, 13 rebounds and four assists. Harvard-Westlake (25-5) tried to launch a comeback in the second half after trailing by 17, but Osborne repeatedly answered by contributing a basket off a drive or creating a scoring opportunity for a teammate.
“I’m always happy to attack the basket,” Osborne said.
Sophomore McKayla Williams had 12 points and junior Kaiyah Corona added nine points and seven rebounds.
It’s the fifth section championship in the last seven seasons for Nygaard, a former Stanford and WNBA player who has the program in peak form.
Windward (23-3) lost in the first round of last year’s Open Division playoffs, then won a state Division 1 title. Osborne said she and her teammates were determined to get their redemption.
Nygaard came up with a game plan that helped Windward reverse an 11-point loss to Harvard-Westlake in December. The plan: Dare the Wolverines to shoot from outside. Harvard-Westlake made just one of 11 shots from three-point range. It also didn’t help that freshman Kiki Iriafen picked up three fouls in the first half.
“They had a great game plan,” Harvard-Westlake coach Melissa Hearlihy said.
The Wildcats didn’t let Pepperdine-bound Jayda and Jayla Ruffus-Milner go inside on a consistent basis. Jayla finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. Jayla was limited to seven points and made just two of 11 shots.
Nygaard didn’t want to go into depth about what she tried to do, figuring the teams could meet again when the state playoffs begin next week. But she couldn’t wait for the game to be played.
“We’ve only played one game a week,” Nygaard said. “It’s been torture.”
Now comes the focus to make it to Sacramento and win a state Open Division championship.