|OCVarsity Hoops: Can Mater Dei win both state titles?|
Carlos Arias and Steve Fryer travel to Laguna Hills to preview the state championship games. Will the Mater Dei boys repeat? Can the Mater Dei girls three-peat? Do the Hawks have enough to win it all? Video by Jonathan Khamis, OCVarsity.com
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Laguna Hills follows Marfone's lead to title game
Laguna Hills forward Celia Marfone's iPod is all over the place. She's into a little bit of everything from country and rock to R&B and gangsta rap.
She loves all kinds of music.
It's kind of like her play on the basketball court. She can do a little bit of everything. She can post up and make mid-range shots or attack the basket. She can step out and knock down 3-pointers. She can handle the basketball like a point guard and she is a tenacious defender. And she really loves everything about basketball, from the practices and being with her teammates to playing in games.
Laguna Hills coach Jim Martin calls her "a leader by example and a great competitor."
Marfone's leadership and performance on the court are a big reason why the Hawks (26-8) are enjoying March Madness with their first trip to the CIF State Division 3 championship game since 1997, when Laguna Hills won it all.
The Hawks will try to make it 2 for 2 in state title games when they play Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland (29-3) on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento. Bishop O'Dowd is in the state championship game for the second consecutive season.
"This season definitely had its ups and downs in the beginning because of injuries and sickness," said Marfone, who missed 10 games early in the season with a broken bone in her left hand. "But once we came together ... we had a talk right before (South Coast) League began. We talked about how we had the potential to win CIF and go to state. The talk really pumped everyone up and got everyone excited to play for league title and the playoffs."
Laguna Hills was a huge underdog when it met Alemany of Mission Hills in the CIF-SS Division 3AA finals. Alemany came in ranked No. 18 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports. Laguna Hills had to beat Alemany twice to win the championship. Marfone's basket with 4.5 seconds left in regulation gave Laguna Hills a 45-43 lead. Alemany scored on an offensive put-back off a missed half-court shot, but replays showed the shot came after the buzzer. The Referees initially ruled the shot no good, then changed the call and it was off to overtime.
Marfone, who had 22 points and 17 rebounds, and the Hawks didn't fold or let their emotions get the better of them. They huddled together and used the injustice as fuel. Marfone and Maddy Ziering-Smith led Laguna Hills to a 59-55 victory in double-overtime.
"We didn't want it to end like that, so it fueled our fire even more, knowing that they got that last shot," Marfone said. "Our team was real positive on the court. We came together again while our coach was dealing with the refs and officials and we said, 'We have to win this twice, basically. We're not going down without a fight.' We came together as a team and just pulled it out."
Marfone had 20 points and 22 rebounds to beat Alemany, 58-49, in the rematch that got the Hawks into the CIF Southern California Division 3 Regional finals. Once again, Laguna Hills was a huge underdog against Mission Bay of San Diego, which was ranked No. 15 in the state. The Hawks shocked the Buccaneers with their ability to keep up with their dizzying pace. Marfone had 28 points and 14 rebounds, Ziering-Smith had 13 points and 11 assists and Anna Mumm had 20 points in Laguna Hills' 75-69 stunner over Mission Bay.
"We never really play at that pace, but we had to keep up with them," Marfone said. "That was just our pace in that game. Our shooting was phenomenal. It was a team effort. Everyone got involved. Maddy was passing the ball well. She had 11 assists. It showed that it was a team effort that won that game."
These Hawks are a tight-knit group.
"She is going to do a lot in her basketball career and I'm very excited for her," Ziering-Smith said. "She's someone that always has your back and there have been plenty of times when I go to her when I need a friend or advice."
The Hawks always are hanging out together at school. They have a lot of team dinners. They go to a local pizza joint after all their games.
"She (Ziering-Smith) has a lot of heart," Marfone said. "She's always diving for balls. She gets rebounds with the 6-foot girls. She's not afraid of the tall girls. She gets and-1s where I don't even know how she makes them. She's like the leading stealer this year. And she hits clutch shots at the right time.
"She (Mumm) has stepped up huge in the playoffs and then in the state games. Her outside shot for being 6-2 is like amazing. She loves her corner shot. She's pulling down rebounds for us and she's a great passer.
"(Brooke) Shimazaki is a great 3-point shooter. She had a couple of off games in the playoffs, but we keep telling her, 'Don't give up on your shot. Keep shooting when you are open.' Our coach has been on her for a while. This past game in the regional finals she had two clutch 3s that were like the dagger for Mission Bay. ... Jeena (Bonutto) had a lot of steals that led to clutch points and her 3-point shooting is amazing."
When Marfone isn't playing basketball or working out, which is most of the time, she's like most teenage girls in Orange County. She loves going to the beach in the summer. She camped out to see all the "Twilight" movies on opening night. She also loves to travel. Her father, Dean, a hockey player from Philadelphia, is Italian, so she has been to Italy to visit her father's side of the family.
"Basketball has always been my favorite sport," Marfone said. "It's my passion. I love doing it."
Marfone, who was the CIF-SS Division 3AA player of the year, Foothill's Molly Greubel and El Toro's Alyson Doherty all signed with UC Davis. Marfone said she is looking forward to majoring in exercise biology. She said she want to be a physical therapist or coach when she graduates from college.
"I always want to be involved in sports any way I can," Marfone said.
Laguna Hills has climbed to No. 15 in the state rankings after its amazing run to the Division 3 state championship game, but it will be an underdog again against No. 4 Bishop O'Dowd, which has 6-4 center Oderah Chidom, 6-4 forward Breanna Brown and 6-2 forward Kendall Brown on its frontcourt.
"We've come a long way," Marfone said. "Even our coaches are shocked we made it this far."
Marfone hopes to pull off one more upset in her final school game before going on to UC Davis.