Archbishop Mitty Downs SJND Pilots

Before the high school winter postseason was canceled, the St. Joseph Notre Dame (SJND) women’s basketball team played its final game of the season in the NorCal Open Division title game. The Pilots wound up on the losing end, 69-53, to their nemesis Archbishop Mitty of San Jose on March 10 at Miramonte High in Orinda. 

The No. 2-seed Pilots entered the title game as the underdogs after losing to the No. 1-seed Monarchs twice in the regular season. As the underdogs, the Pilots implemented a full-court press to start the match to catch their opponents off guard. The plan was fruitful in the beginning as the Monarchs turned the ball over nine times in the first quarter. 

The Pilots’ defense powered them to a 15-14 lead at the end of the first quarter. This was the first time in the three matchups the Pilots led after the first quarter. In their 75-39 loss on Dec. 30, SJND trailed 17-8 at the end of the first quarter. In their 60-39 loss five days later, they trailed 21-11 at the end of the first quarter.

The lead did not last long as the Monarchs took their first lead at 18-17 with 5:45 left in the second quarter. The two teams went back-and-forth, but Mitty led 31-28 at the half. The Pilots let go of the lead in part due to the amount of times the Monarchs were at the foul line in the first half. Mitty scored more than half of their first-half points (16) at the free-throw line. In all Mitty went 16-of-20 from the line in the first half and 20-of-26 throughout. The Pilots were called for 16 fouls in the half and several players were in foul trouble.

Mitty gained control of the game in the third quarter. They outscored SJND, 23-10, in the third, powered by four three-pointers by the Monarchs. The Pilots never got the deficit under double digits in the fourth quarter. 

This was the first game the Monarchs won against a NorCal opponent all season by less than 20 points.

This was the second time in four years the Pilots lost a NorCal regional final. They lost to West Campus High of Sacramento, 70-30, in the NorCal Regional Div. IV final in 2017. Three SJND seniors; Malia Mastora, Malia Lepolo and Sophie Nilsson, were on that 2017 team as freshmen. The three players, along with fellow senior Natalie Langford, played their final game for the Pilots. Mastora is committed to play basketball for UC Riverside next fall. 

The title game was initially scheduled to take place at Gunn High in Palo Alto. However, administrators at the school district did not want to schedule a game that would bring hundreds of audience members to the school. As a result, the game was relocated to Miramonte High the day of the title game. 

This was another challenging turn of events for the Pilots in a season filled with them. The Pilots also had to contend with a coaching change after head coach Shawn Hipol resigned in January and assistant coach Brian Sato took the reins.

The Pilots finished the season with a 24-8 overall record. The Monarchs ended their season with a 26-3 overall record. The team was supposed to take on La Jolla Country Day in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Open Division championship game Saturday, March 14, but the game was canceled due to the COVID-19 virus. The CIF made the official announcment on March 12.

“This decision was made after careful deliberation and in the primary interest of protecting the health and safety of our member schools, fans and most importantly, our student-athletes,” wrote CIF Executive Director Ron Nocettui in a press release. 

The CIF held a meeting yesterday to discuss plans for the CIF high school athletics spring season.