Keilani Ikehara scrambles for a loose ball during Mira Costa’s opening-round win in the Southern California Regional playoffs. Photo by Ray Vidal
Playing in what was probably its final home game of the season, the Mira Costa girls basketball team turned in an all-around performance Wednesday throttling L.A. City Section Division 2 champion University 77-49 in the first round of the Southern California Regional Division 2 Championships.
The Mustangs shook off their disappointing loss to Culver City in the CIF Southern Section Division 2AA final last Friday, using a stifling defense and balanced offensive attack.
Sixth-seeded Mira Costa (23-11) will travel to third-seeded El Dorado (27-5) for a 6 p.m. second-round game on Saturday.
Mira Costa head coach John Lapham was all smiles late in the game, joining the starting players on the bench in cheering on reserve players as they scored and sacrificed their bodies while taking charging fouls.
Eleven of the 14 Mustangs scored in the game and freshman Allie Navarette scored a team-high 19 points.
Mira Costa freshman Allie Navarette scored a team-high 19 points. Photo by Ray Vidal
“They played great tonight,” Lapham said. “I can’t say enough about our kids. They played so hard. That was a game that they’ll remember for a long time and I’m appreciative of how hard they played.”
Mira Costa’s pressing defense frustrated University’s fast breaks and, after Camille Mills’ buzzer-beater from behind the backboard put the Mustangs ahead 15-13 at the end of the first half, Mira Costa went on a 17-point run.
University scored its only two points in the second quarter with just over one minute left in the half.
“When our press gets working and these young ladies get after it, they do a great job of just being relentless and nobody has a chance to breathe against that press, Lapham said.”
Senior Alison Bartak played key role for the Mira Costa defense while scoring 10 points.
“We had one night to get over the (CIF final) loss and the next day we started getting ready for state,” Bartak said. “We were very passionate tonight and really wanted the win. After we felt what it was like to lose a playoff game, we couldn’t do that again.”
Tri-captain Michelle Lanterman said it was critical for the Mustangs to put the loss to Culver City behind them.
“We were all disappointed because that was a game we should have had,” Lanterman said. “We worked out a lot of problems at practice and I think we’re going to go far.”
Mills recorded 11 points, Keilani Ikehara was all over the court and added 10 points, Patience Taylor showed a nice touch scoring six points in the first half and freshman Halle Maeda had six points.
Alison Bartak’s 10 points and relentless defense sparked Mira Costa to a 77-49 win. Photo by Ray Vidal
“I thought we ran a pretty good offense and we certainly shot the ball well,” Lapham said. “I thought Keilani played one of the great games I’ve ever seen. She ran everything and I don’t think she had a single turnover, made a bunch of steals and her two 3-pointers were huge.”
Mira Costa increased its lead to 61-30 at the end of the third quarter but University made a gallant effort to make the game respectable.
Precious Nwaba had a game-high 24 points for University and Lizeth Hernandez scored all of her 15 points in the second half with five 3-pointers.
“Uni came hard and Precious Nwaba is a spectacular athlete,” Lapham said. “She got going in the second half but in the first half, we did a good job of switching defenses and containing her. We let up a little on the perimeter in the second half but did what we needed to do to win.”
Senior leader Mills gave advice to the younger players after last week’s loss and said that playing as a team and communicating was the key to winning.
“I told them that we had another chance, that State’s bigger than CIF so we needed to come back, practice hard and let’s win it this time,” Mills said.
Mira Costa will face an El Dorado that also lost in its CIF Southern Section championship game. Bay League champion West Torrance defeated El Dorado 65-52 for the Division 2A title.
Second-seeded West (31-4) held off No. 15 Bell 45-35 in its opening round game of the Southern California Regionals and will host No. 7 La Costa Canyon (26-3) on Saturday.
La Costa Canyon hit two free throws with six seconds remaining in regulation and Meghan Peneueta’s game-tying attempt went in and out for Redondo as the visiting Sea Hawks were eliminated in the first round of the Division 2 Regional playoffs.
Peneueta led Redondo with 15 points, Tatiana Maimot added nine points and grabbed eight rebounds and Nao Shiota recorded eight points in the loss.
In Division 4, third-seeded Bishop Montgomery ran by No. 14 Exeter 61-27 in its first-round game. Courtney Keaton and Chelsea Lidy scored 10 points apiece for the Knights who will host Mater Dei Catholic of Chula Vista (23-8) at 6 p.m. on Saturday.