Cinderella postseason continues for Mira Costa girls basketball team
Grinning from ear to ear, Camille Mills stood in Fisher Gym Wednesday evening pointing at the wall.
The senior had just led host Mira Costa to a hard-fought 40-33 win over rival Redondo Union, advancing the Mustangs to their first CIF championship game since 2008.
“We knew Redondo was going be the only team stopping us from getting to the championship,” Mills said “Now our motivation is winning the championship so we can change the number on the banner over there.”
Mills was referring to the girls basketball banner hanging on the wall, one of the many sports that list CIF, State and National championships. It paled in comparison to the numerous titles adorning those recognizing the boys and girls volleyball titles.
“This is an amazing feeling,” freshman Alexa Underwood said of the win. “But there’s only one number up there – 1974 – and we want to make the next one ours.”
Ninth-seeded Mira Costa (22-10) will play No. 7 Culver City (27-4) in the CIF Southern Section Division 2AA championship game Friday at 8 p.m. at Godinez High School in Santa Ana.
After splitting the season series with Redondo and finishing fourth in the Bay League, Mira Costa’s victory over the fourth-seeded Sea Hawks continued the Mustang’s improbable post season run that included a 64-60 overtime win at top-seeded Cajon in the quarterfinals.
“We started the season kind of rough but now we’re rolling and we’re going to keep pushing,” Mills said. “Team work has been the key to our success. It starts at practice and we’ve come together. For most of us it will be our last year together and we want it (championship).”
Mira Costa continued its playoff momentum, jumping out to a 7-0 lead in a game it never trailed. Redondo tied the score at 11 at the end of the first quarter, but every time the Sea Hawks would mount a comeback, the Mustangs would answer.
Keilani Ikehara’s back-to-back 3-pointers opened the second quarter regained Mira Costa’s lead and the Mustang’s defense prevented Redondo (20-10) from going on any long scoring runs.
“We’ve been playing better and better over the last six or seven weeks, particularly our defense,” Mira Costa head coach John Lapham said. “I think tonight was probably the least artistic or elegant game I’ve ever seen but we just gritted it out. There was a lot of hustle. We were on the ground all the time and I don’t think we gave them anything easy. Redondo is a really, really good team and what we had to do was take away both their post and their perimeter game and that is a really hard thing to do. We didn’t do it perfectly, but we did it just well enough.”
Freshman Allie Navarette helped Mira Costa seal the victory scoring seven of her 13 points in the fourth quarter. Her 3-pointer with 4:55 remaining gave the Mustangs a 35-23 lead.
Redondo fought back with its own pressing defense, forcing turnovers including a steal on an inbounds pass. Kourtney Noa’s two 3-pointers pulled Redondo to within 38-33 but Mills long-range 2-pointer with 1:59 left iced the game for Mira Costa.