Mater Dei girls top Corona Centennial with last-second shot in overtime
For pure drama and excitement, Thursday night’s Southern Section Open Division girls’ basketball championship game between unbeaten Corona Centennial and unbeaten Santa Ana Mater Dei will be hard to top. It produced one thrilling play after another before ending when junior Nalani White of Mater Dei connected on a three-point basket with one second left in overtime to give the Monarchs an 83-80 victory.
“I don’t think I’ve played in a more exciting game than this,” said McDonald’s All-American Brooke Demetre, who finished with 28 points, 10 rebounds and the key assist to a wide-open White for the game-winning shot.
“I was looking for my shot, but Nalani had the better shot,” the Stanford-bound Demetre said. “We’ve been working hard for 10 months straight. I trusted her and she had the better shot. I gave it to her and it paid off.”
Centennial (22-1), the No. 1 seed, twice opened 10-point leads, only to see the Monarchs (20-0) rally. Regulation ended in a 71-71 deadlock after Centennial twice had chances to make shots for a win. White finished with 17 points and Caia Elisaldez 16 for Mater Dei. Londynn Jones scored 25 points for Centennial, Jayda Curry had 23 points and sister Layla Curry had 17 points.
It was the sixth Southern Section championship at Mater Dei for coach Kevin Kiernan, the winningest girls’ basketball coach in California history.
Mater Dei got the ball back in overtime with 29.4 seconds left after Jayda Curry made two free throws to tie the score. The Monarchs were extremely patient, working the ball around with passes as the time ticked down.
“We always tell them in practice, ‘The ball will find the open person if you’re willing to move it,’” Kiernan said. “And it found the open person.”
White took one dribble on the right wing and hit nothing but net.
“It had to be a three. There were too many in the paint,” White said.
Centennial coach Martin Woods said he thought his team could have played better on defense but credited Kiernan for having his team prepared. There were so many top individual performances. Cal-bound Jayda Curry was 10 for 10 from the free-throw line. UCLA commit Jones made all eight of her free throws and kept hurting the Monarchs with baskets. Demetre had 20 points in the first half when Mater Dei was trying to stay close.
“This was like a college basketball game,” Kiernan said. “This was unbelievably high level of play considering what’s happened all year. To pull that off this year where we were stopping, starting, stopping, starting, it’s testament to both teams.”
Both teams are hopeful of keeping most of their players for the regional playoffs that begin next week.
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