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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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