JSerra girls basketball coach Mary Rossignol has been testing her team all season by playing one of the toughest schedules in Southern California.
So when it came time to make the schedule for the PAW Division IV Showcase she scheduled the Lions against undefeated Windward of L.A., ranked No. 2 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 4 in the nation by ESPN.
The Lions went toe-to-toe with the top-ranked team in their own division before the Wildcats pulled away in the fourth quarter to defeat JSerra, 59-48, on Saturday night at JSerra High.
"I'm proud of the fact that we are competing with these teams," Rossignol said. "I got a great group of kids. We only have one senior and she's a great senior and she's got great senior leadership. We just keep competing.
"I think it's outstanding that we're playing teams like La Jolla Country Day and St. Bernard (of Playa Del Rey) and beating them and going up against Mater Dei and competing with them and competing with a quality team like Windward. It's going to be a big-time advantage for us ..."
JSerra, ranked No. 19 in the state and No. 2 in Division 4AA, could meet up with Windward again in the playoffs. Windward, ranked No. 1 in Division 4AA, knocked the Lions out of the playoffs last season in the quarterfinals.
"They are (22-0) for a reason," Rossignol said of Windward. "They are one of the top teams in the nation and sometimes the other team just hits big shots and makes big plays."
The game went back and forth for most of three quarters until Windward point guard Jordin Canada hit a 10-foot floater at the buzzer to end the third quarter. That gave the Wildcats a 42-38 advantage heading into the final quarter.
When Canada wasn't aggressively attacking the basket with her speed and athleticism and making scoop shots and layups, she was hitting her teammates with precision passes. Canada hit Macchiati Smith for an easy basket and she found Smith again for a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter. Windward's big post threat Kristen Power added a power move on the inside and just like that Windward's lead had swelled to 49-38.
"I think we were being a little bit timid, a little bit apprehensive, and we just started playing like we like to play," Wildcats coach Vanessa Nygaard said. "You know, my big three of Courtney (Jaco), Jordin (Canada) and Kristen (Simon) just really stepped up. They are great players and they played great."
JSerra kept battling but it never recovered. Canada's 24 points and eight assists were too much.
"She's the best point guard in the country. You can't tell me different," Nygaard said of Canada. "I'm lucky to have her. She makes me look like a good coach."
Coco Miller finished with 16 points, including three 3-pointers, and August Touchard had 15 points, including two 3-pointers, six rebounds and three assists to lead the Lions.
In the South Coast League:
San Clemente 68, El Toro 35: Alexa Johnson scored 13 points and Gabby McGann chipped in with 10 points as the Tritons (16-5, 6-0) dispatched the visiting Chargers (11-14, 3-4). San Clemente has a big game on Monday at Laguna Hills where the league title will be on the line.
In the Sea View League:
Dana Hills 54, Trabuco Hills 44: Katie Underwood's 21 points helped the Dolphins (13-11, 5-1) knock off the visiting Mustangs (7-17, 1-6).
San Juan Hills 52, Mission Viejo 40: Annika Van Galder had 15 points and six rebounds and Abby Conklin had 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists to lead the visiting Stallions (11-10, 2-4) past the Diablos (8-14, 3-2).
In the Orange League:
Savanna 27, Magnolia 18: Andrea Cristobal scored 12 points as the visiting Rebels (11-12, 6-2) defeated the Sentinels (4-13, 2-5).
In the Academy League:
St. Margaret's 41, Sage Hill 25: Julianna Coleman had 12 points, five rebounds and three assists and Yamili Burgos jad 10 points, seven rebounds and eight steals for the Tartans (14-7, 6-2) in a victory over the visiting Lightning (6-11, 3-5).
Crean Lutheran 46, Oxford Academy 25: Bianca Couzens scored 18 points and Lisa Yamashita had 14 points to lift the Saints (11-12, 5-3) over the visiting Patriots (6-17, 2-6).
In the Olympic League:
Ontario Christian 46, Whittier Christian 33: Sydney Lopez had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the visiting Herlands (12-12, 5-3) in the loss to the Knights (14-6, 9-2).
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