A dejected Mira Costa team looks on as Culver City is awarded the CIF Southern Section Division 2AA Championship plaque. Photo by Ray Vidal
The strength of the Bay League was acknowledged Sunday when brackets for the CIF Girls Basketball State Championships were announced with West Torrance, Mira Costa and Redondo Union receiving top-ten seedings in the field of 16 in Division 2.
Bay League champion West Torrance (30-4) earned the second seed after winning its first CIF title in girls basketball with a 65-52 win over El Dorado on Saturday.
The Warriors are ranked No. 15 in the MaxPreps state poll and hosted Bell (22-15), the third-ranked team in the L.A. City Section, in the first round on Wednesday. The winner advances to the second round where it will play the winner of the Redondo-LaCostaCanyon game on Saturday at 6 p.m.
Tenth-seeded Redondo (20-10) traveled to Carlsbad to take on No. 7 La Costa Canyon on Wednesday. Head coach Marcelo Enriquez hopes to have his Sea Hawks rebound from a disappointing loss to rival Mira Costa in the CIF Southern Section Division 2AA semifinals last week.
Mira Costa’s girls basketball team has dealt with highs and lows throughout the season, but no peak was as high or valley as low as in a 48-hour span that ended Friday night.
After an emotional victory over rival Redondo Union on Wednesday that sent the Mustangs to the CIF Southern Section Division 2AA championship game, Mira Costa fell to Culver City 56-49 in its bid for the second CIF title in the program’s history.
Mira Costa’s Allie Navarette and Keilani Ikehara force a jump ball. Photo by Ray Vidal
But Mira Costa went down fighting. The Mustangs rallied from a 16-point deficit midway in the third quarter to take a 45-44 lead with 3:24 left in the game.
Allie Navarette’s two free throws finished an 11-0 run and gave the Mustangs their first lead since the first quarter when Keilani Ikehara hit the first of her two 3-pointers to put Mira Costa up 7-3.
Mira Costa’s fourth-quarter lead was short-lived however as Culver City (28-4) went on a 7-0 run and didn’t look back.
“It was a tough loss. I thought we had them,” Mira Costa head coach John Lapham said. “We threw it away. This is a victory we should have found a way to get.”
While Mira Costa found some rhythm in its offense after trailing 26-17 at halftime, the Mustang defense had difficulty defending Michelle Curry, a transfer from St. Bernard who led the Centaurs to the Ocean League crown.
Camille Mills scored all of her 10 points in the second half. Photo by Ray Vidal
Curry scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds despite picking up her fourth foul in the final quarter.
“She (Curry) is crafty and she has a lot of moves,” Lapham said. ”She knows how to get leverage and finish strong. We really didn’t have any good answers for her.”
The game included numerous jump balls often with players sprawling on the court battling for possession. At the end of the first half, Mira Costa had four players with two fouls.
Camille Mills, the Mustang’s leading scorer throughout the season, was held scoreless in the first half after being used sparingly in the second quarter after picking up her second foul.
Mills played the fourth quarter with four fouls but finished with 10 points and six rebounds. Ikehara had 10 points five assists and five steals.
Freshman Halle Maeda scored eights point for Mira Costa. Photo by Ray Vidal
Three freshmen have contributed to Mira Costa’s success this season and didn’t let the nerves of playing in a CIF championship game get the best of them. Halle Maeda scored eight points, Alexa Underwood recorded a team-high eight rebounds and Navarette added six points.
Mira Costa (22-11) will now wait to see where they play in the first round of the CIF State Regional Championships. Brackets will be available Sunday at cifstate.org.
“We need to take a deep breath and apply the 24-hour rule that is we don’t think about it (the loss) after that time,” Lapham said. “We can’t dwell on it. We have to put this game behind us. That will be a question for the seniors and the leaders who need to step in and do that. We have great kids and I think they’ll find a way to get going again in State.”
Despite the loss, Mira Costa (22-11) earned a sixth seed and first-round home game in the State Championships hosting No. 11 University (19-13) on Wednesday.
The winner will face the winner between No. 3 El Dorado and No. 14 Serra (San Diego) in a 6 p.m. second-round game on Saturday. Semifinal games are scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Southern California Regional championship games will be played Saturday, Mar. 22 at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario.
Southern and Northern California champions square off in the State Championships on Saturday, Mar. 20 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. Brackets and results are posted on cifstate.org.
In Division 4, top-seeded Serra (23-4) earned a first-round by and will play the Lindsay-Fairmont Prep winner on Saturday.
Bishop Montgomery (23-8) is seeded third after capturing the CIF Southern Section Division 4AA crown with a 46-43 victory over JSerra on Saturday. The Knights hosted Exeter on Wednesday with the winner advancing to face the winner between No. 6 Mater Dei Catholic (Chula Vista) and No. 11 Rosary (Fullerton).