Tesoro falls to underdog Ayala in opening round


RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA — Ayala coach Amy Campbell looked up at the scoreboard — leading Tesoro, 49-47, with 4 seconds left — then at Jessica Quirarte, who stood at the line waiting to shoot two free throws that could seal the outcome Thursday night.

“She’s got this,” Campbell said to team captain Morgan Scheerer, who’d just smacked the floor in front of the bench.

Quirarte made her second free throw after clanking the first. Tesoro’s Suhansi Perera missed her last-second shot and Ayala upset the Titans, 50-47, in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 2AA girls basketball playoffs.

“We’ve been in (the underdog) position all year,” Campbell said. “People have been doubting us all year. We had nothing to lose.”

Ayala (11-17) led, 41-34, with just under seven minutes left, capping a 23-6 scoring run since midway through the second quarter.

That’s when Tesoro’s offense switched back “on.”

Porsche Nwokeuku led the effort, scoring 7 points on 3-of-5 shooting over the next five minutes. Titans fans screamed the “I Believe” chant with 1:49 left and tested the gym’s decibel limit when Nwokeuku tied it at 47 with 1:25 left.

Ayala’s Hailey Limon and Cydnie Danan drew fouls on the next two possessions, but they went just 2 of 4 from the line to lead, 49-47.

“I’m pretty sure they tried to give me a heart attack,” Campbell said.

This game looked like a blowout when Perera drained a 3 to put Tesoro up, 28-18, midway through the second.

From then until the fourth quarter, Ayala’s man-to-man defense was nearly impenetrable. The Titans (16-10) shot 29 percent (7 for 24) in the second half.

Tesoro, the South Coast League co-champion, played without starting point guard Haley Ison, who was unavailable for the game.

“They didn’t give up,” Tesoro coach Jim Arneson said of his team. “The younger ones will hopefully get some experience out of it. The seniors, unfortunately it’s their last game.”

Quirarte and Danan led the Bulldogs, a Palomares League at-large team, with 12 and 16 points, respectively. Perera and Nwokeuku led the Titans with 13 points apiece.

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