The Chaminade Eagles defeated the Mater Dei Monarchs in the girls’ basketball CIF Championship in an extremely close score of 64-63 on March 7.
When the top two teams in the nation face off in a CIF championship game, it is guaranteed that the hype will be off the charts. With that said, it is safe to say that the game panned out to be everything expected with both sides of the crowd screaming and cheering almost incessantly.
This game was the second time this season Chaminade won by one point, handing Mater Dei its only two losses this season.
Leonna Odom, a former Mater Dei player, hit a game winning layup for the Eagles.
Early in the game, Coach Kelli Dimuro’s Eagles struggled to create any offense, and unfortunately, no matter how good of a defense 6-foot Valerie Higgins and 6-1 Leonna Odom created, there is was just no stopping Katie Lou Samuelson. The 6-3 UConn commit drained baskets all over the court in the beginning, scoring 20 of her 33 points in the first half.
Mater Dei’s lead was commanding early on, with a 17-point lead about midway through the second quarter, but the Eagles never gave in. It was clear to everyone in the arena that if the talented trio of Higgins, Odom, and point guard Paige Fescke started to make their shots, Mater Dei’s lead could vanish quickly.
At halftime, the Monarchs led, 37-25.
As the third quarter began, the Eagles offense picked up, but so did Mater Dei’s. The second half no longer looked like the one sided dominance displayed in the first.
No matter what Chaminade pulled off on the offensive end, Mater Dei would match it. At one point Fescke lead the Eagles to within seven, but Samuelson scored on two straight possessions to get it right back to 11. It was not until a couple of minutes left when Chaminade finally made it close with the Monarchs.
Fescke had been the star for the Eagles all night, but it was in the closing minutes where she took off. It seemed on every possession down the stretch, Fescke was either hitting the bucket or setting up Higgins or Odom for the score.
With the Eagles down three, Fescke nailed a corner three to tie it up. The next possession, Mater Dei hit one of two free throws to get a 63-62 lead with just over 20 seconds left in the game.
DiMuro called a timeout, and prepared the Eagles for their make or break possession of this championship game.
There was not a soul in the gym who did not know that the final shot of the game would be taken by Fescke. The point guard got the ball and sent it to Odom in the corner, Odom gave it to Issy Newman on the wing, and Newman got it to Fescke whose three pointer rimmed out, right into the hands of Chaminade forward Melissa Wright, who kicked it out to Newman. Newman, who had not scored since the first quarter, knocked down a baseline jumper to give the Eagles a 64-63 lead with 3.8 seconds left.
Mater Dei got the ball to Samuelson for the last shot, however the three Eagle defenders swarming her were too much as she was barely able to get off a backcourt heave before the final buzzer sounded.
DiMuro and Chaminade were CIF Open Division champions, giving the Chaminade girls their third ring in three years, two being CIF rings and one being a state ring from last season. This was their first Open Division championship.
The Eagles and the Monarchs have a very good chance of meeting again in Open Division state playoffs.
Whatever happens in state playoffs for the Eagles, there is no doubt DiMuro has created a dynasty with this basketball team.
—This story was done in collaboration with Chloe Padilla & Isabella Balandran of Mater Dei and Alec Neimand & Matt Patterson of Chaminade