Long Beach Poly girls win first state basketball title in Open Division

Long Beach Poly girls win first state basketball title in Open Division
The Long Beach Poly players celebrate their sixth state championship and first in the Open Division, a 70-52 triumph over Richmond Salesian on Saturday night at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

There's no time like the present for Long Beach Poly, but the future could be even brighter.

Freshman forward Ayanna Clark scored 14 of her 19 points in the second half as the Jackrabbits dominated down the stretch to win their sixth state championship and first in the Open Division with a 70-52 triumph over Richmond Salesian on Saturday night at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.


It looked as if Poly might run away with the victory when it jumped ahead, 17-4, in the first four minutes and took a 36-23 lead into halftime. The Pride opened the third quarter on a 16-0 run to take a 39-36 lead ,but Poly carried a 48-42 lead into the fourth and outscored Salesian, 22-10 ,over the final eight minutes.

"At one point I was nervous, but once I got into the flow of the game it went away," Clark said. "I had trust in my team that we would pull it out. Winning state still means a lot to me even though I'll have a few more chances."

Clark's offensive rebound and three-point play late in the third quarter put Poly (27-3) ahead to stay.

Long Beach Poly won four straight Division I state titles from 2006-09 and added a fifth last year, all under Coach Carl Buggs, who called this year's team one of his best.

"They're all special," said Buggs, whose team's only losses this season were to Southern Section Open Division winner Los Angeles Windward (twice) and runner-up Santa Ana Mater Dei. "This team took a while to jell but this is one of the best I've had. We played our best at the end of the year and that's what you want."

Junior guard Tania Lamb had 13 points, senior forward Lajahna Drummer added 11 and senior guard Justyce Dawson added eight for Poly.


It may have been West Hills Chaminade's first appearance in the state finals, but the Eagles played as if they had been there many times before in an 80-51 blowout of five-time state champion San Jose Archbishop Mitty.

Devin Stanback had 27 points and 10 rebounds as the Eagles (29-4) set a state Division II record for points scored and out-rebounded the Monarchs 42-27. Natalie Valenzuela had 15 points and 10 rebounds, Valerie Higgins had 15 points, four assists and three steals and Kaylie Fandino added 12 points, including a 15-foot jumper at the buzzer that gave her team a 46-21 halftime lead.

Chaminade became the first school in California to win state championships in football, boys basketball and girls basketball in the same year. The football team won the CIF state Division II bowl game in December and the boys basketball team beat Sir Francis Drake to win the Division III title Friday.

Kelli Hays had 15 points and Madeline Holland added 11 for Archbishop Mitty (20-12), which made three of 23 three-pointers and 20 of 63 field goal attempts. Chaminade, which lost to Long Beach Poly in the Southern Section Open Division quarterfinals, scored the first eight points and led 26-9 after the first quarter.


The second time was even sweeter for Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, which got 21 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks from junior Cheyanne Wallace and 15 from senior Zoe Goss in a 64-37 rout of Los Altos Hills that made the Trailblazers back-to-back state champions.

"We started the season with three goals — to put up a league, CIF or state banner," Chaminade Coach Alicia Komaki said. "We failed at the other two, but we got this. We played the toughest schedule we ever have. I thought we'd be a seven- or 10-loss team but the girls stepped up and played great all season."


The Trailblazers (28-4) opened a 32-15 lead after two quarters and increased the margin throughout the second half. Kennedy Burke had 12 points and 11 rebounds and Alexis Griggsby added 13 points for Sierra Canyon, which won the Division V state title last season.

"The majority of us have been here before so we were less nervous than last year," Wallace said. "We knew what to expect and that helped us get out to a fast start."

Haley Cremen had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Braves (29-7), who were held to four points in the second quarter.