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NICK AGRO , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Mater Dei junior Ally Rosenblum gets fouled March 7 as she shoots during the CIF-SS Open Division final against Chaminade.

Mater Dei girls look for revenge against Chaminade

STAFF WRITER

They sat on their bench mostly in disbelief, the celebratory noise in the background deadened by the realization of what had transpired.

Up by 14 points midway through the third quarter, and by 10 with roughly six minutes to go, Mater Dei’s girls basketball team had just seen Chaminade of West Hills storm back to seize the CIF-SS Open Division championship, 64-63, exactly two weeks ago at Azusa Pacific University.

It was the Monarchs’ second loss of the season to the Eagles, and again, it came by a single point.

Mater Dei (30-2) will get one last shot to avenge the losses Saturday when it plays Chaminade (27-3) for a third time in the CIF Southern California Open Division Regional championship game.

“I don’t want to have to hear that ‘third time’s a charm’ phrase ever again,” Monarchs coach Kevin Kiernan joked. “The thing is, in the first two games, we did a lot of good stuff. We’ve been in the lead in most of those games.

“We just haven’t closed those games out. We’ve kind of let their role players hurt us.”

In the CIF-SS final, Chaminade point guard Paige Fecske scored 25 points, single-handedly keeping the Eagles in the game late with six 3-pointers. Part of the reason the senior was so successful was because of her talented junior teammates, Leaonna Odom and Valerie Higgins.

With Mater Dei’s defense keyed to shut down Odom and Higgins, the Eagles’ role players were presented with a number of open looks, which they knocked down in key situations.

“Chaminade has another gear that those two can go to,” Kiernan said. “We put so much effort into trying to stop that. I don’t know if you can do anything about it though. That’s what makes them special.”

In addition to trying to contain the Chaminade offense, Mater Dei will need a special performance from senior Katie Lou Samuelson to get over the proverbial hump. Samuelson, who was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year on Thursday, finished with a game-high 31 points in the teams’ last meeting, while Andee Velasco was the only other Monarchs player in double figures with 15.

Foul trouble kept Ally Rosenblum on the sideline for much of the CIF-SS final, but Emma Torbert came off the bench and played well in the post.

With a size advantage down low, look for Mater Dei to work the ball into the block more consistently tonight.

“We feel we have an advantage with our post players who can score inside and be a presence,” Kiernan said. “Sometimes we’ll get caught up with perimeter shooting, but when you go cold, you let teams come back into games. We want Ally, Emma and Lou to get some looks inside. ”

Contact the writer: kconnolly@ocregister.com


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