Pilot Girls Advance
The St. Joseph Notre Dame (SJND) women’s basketball team used a late surge in the third quarter to break open the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) NorCal Regional Open Division semifinal against Clovis West High. The Pilots held off the Golden Eagles in the final period en route to a 53-47 victory March 7, at home.
The back-and-forth match was to be expected between the No. 2-seed Pilots and No. 3-seed Golden Eagles. Both teams entered the Regional tournament as Open Division winners of their respective sections, North Coast Section for the Pilots and Central Section for the Golden Eagles. Both teams also entered the contest with more than 20 victories on the season. So, it was understandable that neither team held a lead larger than four points in the first 22 minutes of the game.
Trailing 30-29 with five minutes left in the third quarter, SJND went on a 10-1 run, the biggest run of the game, to close out the period. The Pilots ended the quarter leading 39-31. Junior Kalia Coverson scored six of the 10 points during the run.
The Golden Eagles attempted a comeback in the fourth quarter. After a three-pointer by Senior Sophie Nilsson gave the Pilots a 44-36 lead with 6 minutes left, back-to-back three-pointers by Golden Eagle juniors Alyssa Kuniyoshi and Kendall Jackson cut SJND’s lead down to 44-42 with 5:12 left.
The Pilots responded with a bucket from senior Malia Mastora and a three-pointer from sophomore Talana Lepolo that stretched SJND’s lead to 49-42 with 3:12 left. Clovis West responded with a free throw and a three-pointer of their own from junior Alexa Silva. The lead was cut to 49-46 with a little more than a minute remaining. However, the Pilots were able to hold off the Golden Eagles thanks to great free-throw shooting from Makena Mastora. The junior went 4-for-4 from the charity stripe in the final stages to put the game away and put the Pilots in the CIF NorCal Regional championship game.
The Pilots’ defense was key in holding off the Golden Eagles. Though the team turned the ball over several times late, the Golden Eagles could not capitalize with points. Clovis West had several empty possessions late in the fourth quarter. The Golden Eagles also did not capitalize at the free-throw line. The team went 10-for-22 at the free-throw line.
Neither team could gain separation in the first half, even though the Pilots led for most of the first two quarters. The game was tied at 13 at the end of the first quarter. The Pilots led, 22-21, at halftime.
Makena Mastora led the Pilots with 12 points. Malia Mastora had 10 in the contest. Nilsson scored nine points and pulled down nine rebounds. Five of her points came in the fourth quarter, including the three-pointer that gave the Pilots the 44-36 lead. Senior Maila Lepolo also scored nine points for the Pilots. Senior Aaliyah Seuell led the Golden Eagles in scoring with 11 points. The Pilots improved its record to 24-7, while the Golden Eagles’ season ends with an overall record of 27-5.
SJND faced Archbishop Mitty of San Jose in the NorCal Regional Open Division final. This was the third time the two teams faced off this season. The Pilots were out classed by the Monarchs in the first two matchups. Archbishop Mitty won the first contest, 75-39, on Dec. 30 and the second, 60-39, on Jan. 4. The regional final took place March 10, at Gunn High in San Jose. The winner will play the winner of the SoCal Open Division Regional final this Saturday, March 14, at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.