SANTA ANA, Calif. — St. Monica’s Briana Harris for the win, 46-45.
That was the story Saturday night during the CIF-Southern Section Division 4A girls’ basketball final at Mater Dei High School. It’s a story the St. Monica Mariners have heard before as the spunky senior led her team to victory one more time with her clutch bucket in the game’s final seconds.
With their win over the No. 1 ranked St. Paul Swordsmen, the No. 2 seeded Mariners wiped away the blemishes from their record.
Having been bested by the Swordsmen twice during the Camino Real League regular season, the win over their rival in the championship was particularly satisfying.
“They had something over us, and it was time for revenge,” said Harris.
In addition to earning redemption and bragging rights, the Mariners earned a spot in the history books, becoming the very first girls’ basketball team to secure a CIF-SS championship for St. Monica.
Although this was Harris’ second title in four years (her first was at Santa Monica High School as a freshman), St. Monica hadn’t earned championship gold in any sport in over a decade.
The Swordsmen drew first blood, using effective ball movement and superior perimeter shooting to take control early, with a 33-16 advantage at half-time.
“That wasn’t in the game plan, we told the team not to allow the three-pointer,” said John Skinner, St. Monica’s head coach. “At the end of the day it’s about heart, it’s about desire.”
Harris, who had an uncharacteristic shooting night, was visibly upset in the first half and shot one of eight from the field.
“I was frustrated, because I couldn’t get anything to go,” she said.
Big time players make big time plays, and despite a less than stellar first half, at the end of 32 minutes, Harris made it clear she’s ready for the big time recording 23 points, 11 rebounds and 4 steals.
“They got into Briana’s head early, good news is she showed resolve, and the team showed resolve,” said Skinner.
Starting center Melissa Maragnes never lost her resolve even when trailing the Swordsmen by as many as 17 in the contest.
“I knew we were going to win, I had a dream about it. It was destiny” she said.
Maragnes proved to be an invaluable asset on defense playing more minutes than any other St. Monica player on the night, as she chipped in 6 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks.
Although the Mariners will have to say good-bye to their spectacular front-line the future of the program looks bright as three freshmen — Elena Kostadinov, Lisa Engler, and Molly Tomlin —kept composure and contributed huge minutes.
“Totally a team effort, on and off the court,” said Skinner. “We’re a team that likes drama, and that’s what happened tonight.”