Women’s basketball Esperanza continues magical run, upsets Rosary to reach Division 1 final – Orange County Register
ANAHEIM – The sometimes miraculous and seemingly always dramatic playoffs staged by the Esperanza High women’s basketball team added another chapter to its storybook story on Saturday night, June 5.
The Aztecs recovered from a first wave of 3 points from No. 2 seed Rosary to quickly take control of their Division 1 semi-final in the CIF South Section. And when the Royals, two-time defending CIF SoCal Division 1 champions, finally responded, it was underdog Esperanza who offered the final say.
Emily Briggs, one of the stars of the playoffs, completed a driving layup for the go-ahead basket with 1:52 left in the fourth quarter and the Aztecs’ defense stood from there as ‘they upset Rosary’s 61-56 visit in front of a noisy crowd to reach her first section final since 2001.
Briggs’ left-hand drive in traffic, typical of the shots she and her teammates took throughout the game, gave Esperanza a 57-56 lead. Goalkeeper Kaiya Mack added four free kicks to seal the Aztecs’ 21st straight victory, which followed last-second triumphs over Serra and Sierra Canyon.
Kubo sank the 3-point winner with seven seconds to cap a rally against Sierra Canyon in the quarterfinals. Briggs emptied a half-field, buzzer-beater to beat Serra in the second round.
Now Esperanza (21-2), ranked 11th in the Division 1 final poll, will face the winner of Monday’s Fairmont Prep-Long Beach Poly semi-final in the final on Thursday, June 10.
“It’s honestly unreal,” said Esperanza junior Alyssa Kubo, who scored 13 of her team’s top 17 points in the second half. “Every game that we win, we are all so happy and so excited for the next game. It’s really crazy and an unreal experience for us.
Rosary (17-5) took an 11-2 lead in the opening minutes behind two 3-pointers from Kaylee Byon (29 points, 13 rebounds) and one from Allison Clarke (12 points). But Esperanza responded with a 13-0 run to take the lead, which stood at 28-20 at halftime.
Esperanza was leading by as many 13s at the start of the third before things tightened up. Rosary took a 57-56 lead – her first since the opening minutes – on two Byon free throws with 2:16 left in the fourth.
The Aztecs used a diamond game zone and one to sometimes slow Rosary down and received balanced contributions from sophomores Julia Lavigne (15 points), Briggs (14 points, eight rebounds, three blocks) and Mack (13 points).
“We have players who want it. They are living for now, “Esperanza coach Jimmy Valverde said.” It’s been a crazy race. ”
Rosary made 13 of 32 attempts beyond the arc, including her last field goal: a 3-point Clarke with 3:55 left in the fourth. But the Royals didn’t score for the 2:16 final, missing a few good shots after Byon’s two free-kicks gave them the lead at 57-56.
The star junior point guard followed with 16 seconds left. Mack followed by two fouls
Esperanza went 0 for 11 from beyond the arc in the first half and finished 3 of 18. But the Aztecs managed to make their way to the basket and get some second chance rebounds.
Esperanza also shot well from the foul line, scoring 12 for 13. Rosary made 9 of 16 free throws.