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Laguna Hills reaches state title game
ONTARIO – Laguna Hills wasn't expected to be one of the top teams in the county at the beginning of the season, but that certainly has changed during the Hawks' amazing run to a CIF-SS Division 3AA title and in the CIF Division 3 state tournament.
Laguna Hills earned its second trip to the state championship game and first since it won it all in 1997 with a stunning 75-69 victory over top-seeded Mission Bay of San Diego in the CIF Southern California Division 3 Regional finals on Saturday morning at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
"This team kind of came out of nowhere a little bit for a lot of people," Laguna Hills coach Jim Martin said. "It makes it sweet to see these girls come together late in the season and make this run."
UC Davis-bound Celia Marfone had 28 points and 14 rebounds, junior center Anna Mumm had 20 points and eight rebounds and junior point guard Maddy Ziering-Smith had 13 points, 11 assists and seven steals to lead the Hawks.
Laguna Hills (26-8) plays Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland for the Division 3 state title next Saturday at 1 p.m. at Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento. Mission Bay finished 26-7.
"We weren't like, 'Oh my gosh, this team is going to be amazing,'" Ziering-Smith said. "We grew together as a team. In practice, we found what worked for us. We've been developing and getting better. It's come together for us now, which is nice."
Both teams set an incredibly fast pace in the first half. Mumm had eight points during a 12-0 run that gave Laguna Hills a 15-6 lead in the first quarter. Mission Bay responded with a 14-3 run to close out the first quarter with a 19-18 advantage.
"We knew they'd be all over Celia and Maddy because they are the big two players," Mumm said. "We just knew if I could step up and score some baskets it would really help us out."
Marfone was scoreless in the first quarter before exploding for 16 points, including three 3-pointers. Marfone hit a 3-pointer and Ziering-Smith got a steal and layup in the final 15 seconds of the half to give the Hawks a 40-39 lead at halftime.
"We hadn't played a first half like that all season," Laguna Hills coach Jim Martin said. "At halftime, I thought I don't think we can keep this pace. We gotta slow it down a little bit. We went to a 2-3 zone in the second half to try and slow them down a little bit. But the way they play you can't slow it down too much because they force you to go fast. That was as fast a pace as we've had to play this year."
The Hawks would surrender the lead the rest of the way.
"I'm not used to starting that slow," Marfone said. "It took me a little bit because it was a different atmosphere. In the second quarter, I took my open shots. I usually don't shoot 3-pointers, but they were open, so I took them."
First-year Mission Bay coach Sade Wiley-Gatewood, who was the Parade national player of the year and a state champion at Lynwood in 2004, was thoroughly impressed by Marfone.
"She's awesome," Wiley-Gatewood said.
Marfone, Ziering-Smith and Mumm were there to knock down big shots whenever Mission Bay made a run in the second half.
Briteesha Solomon had 28 points to lead the Buccaneers and Arizona-bound Keyahndra Cannon had 19 points.