Etiwanda girls basketball team retires from Mater Dei and stamps ticket to Open Division title game – Orange County Register

RANCHO CUCAMONGA – Etiwanda and Sierra Canyon. It’s the showdown many were talking about even before the season started.

Etiwanda girls basketball coach Stan Delus and his players do not belong to this group.

“Do we sometimes think of her? Secure. Do we have a chip? Of course,” said Delus, referring to Sierra Canyon, who defeated the Eagles in last year’s CIF State Open Division regional championship game. “But it wasn’t that The focus this season. We haven’t overlooked anyone we play. I’m just not going to let this happen because if we don’t go out and take care of business, this game won’t even happen.”

Any questions about Etiwanda looking too far ahead were answered in the opening minutes of Saturday’s CIF Southern Section Open Division pool game against Mater Dei. Kennedy Smith knocked down a 3-pointer on the opening ball and poured in 11 points in the first quarter to give the Eagles an early lead. Mater Dei held the score well into the second half, but Etiwanda used an 11-1 run late in the third quarter to gain control of the game, eventually walking away in a 71-59 win.

Sierra Canyon also handled business Saturday night, so teams will compete for the section’s Open Division Championship for the second straight season on February 25 at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Etiwanda rallied for a 65-67 win in last season’s title game at Etiwanda.

“We know it’s going to be a tough game because both teams are desperate to win. We just have to hold on to our game,” Smith said.

Smith and Aliyahna “Puff” Morris combined to score all of Etiwanda’s 17 points in the opening quarter. Smith caused Mater Dei fits throughout the evening, but the Monarchs (28-3) stayed within striking distance in the first quarter because of the Addison Deal shot.

Etiwanda (29-1) was eight points clear at the break, but in the second half the Eagles struggled under pressure from Mater Dei, turning the ball five times in the first three minutes of the third quarter. Mater Dei took advantage, closing the gap and leveling on 36 when center Jenessa Cotton scored her only basket of the game, leaving 4:37 in the third period.

Delus considered taking time off to calm things down but decided to let his players figure it out for themselves. The strategy paid off as the Eagles assembled an 11-1 run over the next 2 1/2 minutes to take a double-digit lead for the first time.

Deal sunk from a 3-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to reduce the deficit to eight points, but Etiwanda immediately countered with a 7-0 run.

“Our goal was to stay connected, be within 5 or 6 points in the last three minutes and put all the pressure on them late in the game,” said Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan. “We missed free throws (12 out of 21) and got beat up a bit on the boards. That didn’t really help us.”

Smith finished the game with 26 points and Morris scored 14 of their 20 points in the second half. Morris and Sa’lah Hemingway (nine points and eight rebounds) sunk eight combined free throws in the last minute to seal the win. Etiwanda girls basketball team retires from Mater Dei and stamps ticket to Open Division title game – Orange County Register

Russell Falcon

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