Lakeside's Triann Thompson dribbles past the Orange Lutheran defense during the CIF Division III Southern California Regional Championship game Saturday night.

Orange Lutheran roars back at end, but falls short in DIII final


ONTARIO – Tom Howard knew his team’s runaway victory over Lakeside of Lake Elsinore three weeks ago was going to be a distant memory in Saturday’s CIF Division III Southern California Regional final.

For Howard and the Orange Lutheran girls basketball team, it became too distant of a memory.

Senior guard Marissa Williams hit the second of two free throws with a half-second left Saturday night, and Lakeside turned back a ferocious second-half comeback to defeat Orange Lutheran, 35-34, and win the regional title at Colony High.

The victory came three weeks after Orange Lutheran (28-8) downed Lakeside, 39-23, in the Southern Section semifinals. This meeting was far different.

“We were in a fight,” Howard said, “and we got one.”

Lakeside (30-5), the division’s No. 10 seed and winner of three consecutive upsets in the regional tournament, held Lutheran to just 10 first-half points and held its biggest lead at 29-14 midway through the third quarter.

“Obviously, it’s tough to play from behind,” Howard said, “and when you’re trying to make up for a 15-point deficit, that takes a lot out of you. Sometimes, that deficit is too much to overcome.”

But the Southern Section’s Division 3AA champion rallied, going on an 18-5 run, and tying the game at 34-34 when senior Taelor Griffin (15 points) hit a runner with a minute remaining.

The teams tussled down the stretch in a defensive struggle. On what proved to be Lakeside’s final possession, junior guard Triann Thompson (12 points) drove into the key and lost the ball. Williams picked it up, got a shot off and was fouled by Jessi Matson.

Williams missed the first, made the second, and a ensuing last-second Lutheran shot came off after the buzzer.

“They were obviously very motivated,” Howard said. “They played very hard, played very tough and they deserved it. They deserve the championship.”

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