Mater Dei girls’ basketball is ranked third in the nation, but don’t tell that to Chaminade. The Eagles took care of business on Saturday night, downing the Monarchs 60-59 to put themselves onto the map.
Behind the dynamic duo of juniors in Valerie Higgins and Mater Dei transfer Leoanna Odom, who scored 20 and 14 points respectively, the 11th-ranked Eagles made a statement. Not only did they win the notoriously competitive Palisades Tournament, but have now also asserted themselves as the best team in California and a force to be reckoned with come state championship tournament.
It was a cathartic game for Odom, who is very much familiar with the superstars that Mater Dei so regularly produces. Having attended the school last year and being an integral part in its 27-3 record and No. 3 national ranking, it’s no surprise that Odom knew how to get it done against her former teammates.
The Monarchs’ Katie Lou Samuelson is the top recruit in all the land and she showed why, pouring in 27 points to lead all scorers, as she was the team’s catalyst all night long. And yet still, it was Chaminade and its well-rounded team that overshadowed the Connecticut signee as the Eagles’ got the stat that mattered most: the win.
It was a fantastic game from start to finish, but the Eagles knew that it would be far from a blowout. As is reflective of Coach DiMuro’s coaching philosophies, the Eagles never let Mater Dei pull away, pecking at its lead throughout the entire game only to see senior Paige Fescke put the game away for good on a scooping finish with just seconds left to play.
The players have managed to remain focused on the bigger picture, not putting too much stock into just one win this early in the season, but there’s no denying that beating a perennial state title contender is an affirmation of sorts for this young team. Expectations are high and excitement is swirling around campus, but only time will tell whether or not the Eagles can get back to the promised land in March.