Laguna Hills battles to the end but falls to Gahr


LAGUNA HILLS – Saturday’s CIF-SS Division 3AAA semifinal matchup between Laguna Hills and Gahr of Cerritos represented a power struggle, like an irresistible force against an immovable object.

In one corner, there was the Hawks, who won Division 3AA in 2012, while the Gladiators entered as the top seed in the bracket.

Something had to give and it just happened to be Laguna Hills' chance at back-to-back section championships.

Maddy Ziering-Smith missed a 3-point attempt at the end of the game, and Gahr held on for a 54-51 victory at Laguna Hills High. The Gladiators will meet Agoura in the finals.

“I’m thrilled we scrambled back and made a run at them,” Hawks coach Jim Martin said. “That’s all you can ask, we had a chance to tie the game and it just didn’t happen.”

Laguna Hills (22-8) trailed by 14 entering the fourth. Cheyenne Berbey (17 points) scored eight points in the final period to lead the furious comeback attempt.

Final shot aside, Ziering-Smith did all she could for Laguna Hills, as she scored 15 points, had four steals, pulled in eight rebounds and recorded five assists.

Martin knew coming into the game his team didn’t have anybody to matchup with Gladiators star Jewelyn Sawyer and it was evident throughout the game.

Sawyer’s performance made the difference for Gahr. She dominated offensively with 22 points and nine rebounds, and wrecked havoc on defense with four steals and three blocks.

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