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CIF basketball: Eastside Prep girls back-to-back Division V state champions

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			CIF basketball: Eastside Prep girls back-to-back Division V state champions		

	
	

	
				
			CIF basketball: Eastside Prep girls back-to-back Division V state champions		

	
	

	
				
			CIF basketball: Eastside Prep girls back-to-back Division V state champions		

	
	

	
				
			CIF basketball: Eastside Prep girls back-to-back Division V state champions		

	
	

	
				
			CIF basketball: Eastside Prep girls back-to-back Division V state champions		

	
	

	
				
			CIF basketball: Eastside Prep girls back-to-back Division V state champions		

	
	

	
				
			CIF basketball: Eastside Prep girls back-to-back Division V state champions		

	
	

	
				
			CIF basketball: Eastside Prep girls back-to-back Division V state champions		

	
	

	
				
			CIF basketball: Eastside Prep girls back-to-back Division V state champions		

	
	

	
				
			CIF basketball: Eastside Prep girls back-to-back Division V state champions		

	
	

	
				
			CIF basketball: Eastside Prep girls back-to-back Division V state champions		

	
	

	
				
			CIF basketball: Eastside Prep girls back-to-back Division V state champions		

	
	

	
				
			CIF basketball: Eastside Prep girls back-to-back Division V state champions

SACRAMENTO — Not only did Eastside Prep defend its CIF state Division V girls basketball title, the Panthers did it in style.

Friday morning’s championship game at Golden 1 Center, home to the Sacramento Kings, was never in doubt the entire second half as Eastside ran away from Rolling Hills Prep of San Pedro in a 63-40 blowout.

The main culprit was sophomore Zion Gabriel, who broke a record set by Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson in 2008 with the most 3-pointers ever in a state final — eight.

“I’m still dreaming,” said Eastside Prep coach Donovan Blythe, whose team won the school’s previous state title last year. “It seemed like the first one was yesterday. Great group of girls. They’re in the gym at 5:45 a.m., so if we didn’t win this one, the season would’ve been a bust.”

With the Panthers (23-8) comfortably ahead 34-16 by halftime, the storyline quickly shifted toward Gabriel’s pursuit of the record book.

Before she even came out of the locker room for the second half, the 5-foot-4 guard had already tied ex-Stanford star Candice Wiggins and Washington senior Kelsey Plum, the leading scorer in NCAA women’s basketball history, along with two others for second all-time among girls with five 3-pointers.

“They’re definitely big names and I’ve heard them a lot,” said Gabriel, who added that her favorite player is Thompson. “And I’ve also watched them play, and it’s amazing to break it. I just feel a little overwhelmed.”

With just over two minutes left in the third quarter, Gabriel eclipsed the mark of six treys for the girls set in 1996 by Mary Mott of Mission Prep-San Luis Obispo, which in turn tied her with the seven that Thompson nailed while attending Santa Margarita.

She then managed to beat the buzzer at the end of the period to claim sole possession of the record.

Gabriel, who finished with a game-high 26 points, went 8 of 16 from beyond the arc, never taking a shot from inside the 3-point line. Her eight treys matched a personal best achieved a couple of months ago.

“Each young lady sitting at this table will put up at least 200 shots every practice, so I wasn’t surprised,” Blythe said. “A little disappointed that she didn’t drop 10.”

Rolling Hills (32-4), the fifth-seeded SoCal champ, was making its first appearance in a state final and had four freshmen in its starting lineup.

Neither team has any seniors, but Eastside, the No. 1 seed at NorCals, reached this stage for a third straight year with an almost an identical roster.

“If we’re diamonds in the rough, they’re very polished,” Rolling Hills coach Richard Masson said.

“The media said that we were the favorite, we respect everyone that we play against,” Blythe said. “We didn’t come out underestimating this team. In the first quarter, you could tell that they can play. They will be back next year, and eventually down the road I could see them winning the state championship.”

Rolling Hills hung around until the last minute of the opening period.

Trailing 8-7, that’s when the Huskies succumbed to a barrage by the Panthers, who embarked on a 19-2 run that lasted until the midway point of the second quarter and included four 3-pointers from Gabriel.

In the state playoffs, Eastside enjoyed a lopsided 33.4-point margin of victory against its five opponents.

“Our schedule is built for March,” Blythe said. “A lot of teams try to qualify during the preseason, we try to be ready when March comes around, so that’s how we set up our schedule throughout the season.”

“Every time after we played teams like that, they pushed us to become better players,” said junior captain Kayla Tahaafe, who added that practicing against the athleticism, length and speed of the Eastside boys basketball team also helped a lot. “And so I think we were able to reflect that onto the games that we played more recently.”

Tahaafe left her imprint in the victory by threatening to record a triple-double with seven points, eight rebounds, nine assists and four steals.

“Every year that I’ve come here is always a new experience,” Tahaafe said. “After losing my freshman year, we had to come in and prove something, that we could come in here and win. And this year we also came to prove something, that we could stay at the top.”

The spacious Golden 1 Center allowed the Panthers to deploy its preferred up-tempo style that applied pressure on the Huskies for the entire 32 minutes.

And although neither team is particularly tall, Eastside dominated the glass with 42 rebounds, compared to 23 for Rolling Hills.

Mina Tamilau, a 5-8 sophomore, led the way with 12 rebounds, while Kiki Humphrey, another a 5-8 sophomore, also grabbed eight.

“I just want to get the ball for our team,” Tameilau said.

“We don’t have a big team,” Blythe said. “Our average height might be maybe 5-5, 5-4. so everyone had to contribute as far as rebounding goes.”

“I think it’s just heart, and just passion,” Tahaafe said. “If you don’t want the ball, you’re not going to get it. And I think every one of us wants the ball, so that’s why we go get those boards.”

The rebounding disparity helped Gabriel find open looks from outside, with Rolling Hills throughout the season relying on a pack-line defense to stop the dribble-drive of guards such as Tahaafe, while positioning players closer to the basket.

“It makes you a little bit more vulnerable to the perimeter shot,” Masson said. “You’d like to think it will all balance out, where she’s going to start missing some, but it just didn’t happen with her today. And a couple of others hit some big 3’s as well, so it kind of put us behind the 8 ball.”

That would be Kayla Mahan, the step-sister of Gabriel, who came off the bench to produce nine points on 3-of-5 shooting from downtown.

The three-player bench played a significant role after junior Ra’Anaa Bey and Dede Franklin picked up a couple of early fouls.

Still, that didn’t affect the Panthers’ intensity on defense.

“Although a few of us were in foul trouble,” Bey said, “we knew that we still had to come together and still play hard.”

Their reward after securing back-to-back state titles is some much-needed rest.

“I think we just gotta catch up on our sleep,” Tahaafe said. “I mean, we’ve been working out at 5:45 in the morning for a really long time, and I think we deserve some sleep.”

CIF Division V girls basketball championship game
at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento
Rolling Hills Prep 7 9 13 11 — 40
Eastside College Prep 13 21 21 8 — 63
RHP—Maxey 4 3-5 12, Stroud 3 0-1 9, Pakele 2 2-7 8, Yamada 2 0-4 6, Tsuji 2 0-0 4, Sereno 0 1-2 1. Totals 13 6-19 40.
ECP—Gabriel 8 2-5 26, Mahan 3 0-0 9, Tahaafe 3 1-1 7, Franklin 3 1-2 7, Tameilau 2 2-3 6, David 2 0-0 4, Bey 1 0-0 2, Humphrey 1 0-3 2. Totals 23 6-14 63.
3-pointers: Stroud 3, Pakele 2, Yamada 2, Maxey (RHP); Gabriel 8, Mahan 3 (ECP).
Records: Rolling Hills Prep 32-4, Eastside College Prep 22-8.

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