May 29, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Santa Ana denied first CIF title after LA Price rallies in the fourth quarter for victory

Santa Ana Coach Tony Jarjoura talks to his players after Saturday’s road loss. (Photos: Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone).

LOS ANGELES – The No. 6 seeded Santa Ana High School girls’ basketball team’s bid for its first CIF championship ever came up a bit short on Saturday night as the Saints fell to top-seeded Price of Los Angeles 43-35 in the Division 5A championship game at Price.

Kaziah Fletcher and Jade Fort each scored 19 points to lead the Knights. Janessa Roa scored 14 points for Santa Ana and Halle Broadax added nine points.          

Price (15-2), champion of the Harbor League, won its 12th consecutive game and did it with only seven players. Santa Ana (16-17) overcame a 2-11 start to the season and reached the title game for the first time.

To see the slide show, click on the first picture:

Roa’s bucket with just under two minutes to go in the third quarter lifted Santa Ana to a 32-24 lead after three quarters.

The Saints looked poised to bring home a title. However, their fortunes changed in the fourth quarter. The Knights, sparked by the sharp shooting of Fletcher and Fort’s 14 points, exploded on an 18-3 run.

Fort nailed three straight baskets, including two 3-pointers and cut the Saints lead to 34-32 with 5:28 to play.

Fletcher’s basket with 2:38 to go gave the Price a 36-34 lead, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Santa Ana scored just one basket and a free throw in the final quarter and turned the ball over numerous times. The clincher was Fort’s 3-pointer and follow up basket with 42 seconds remaining to secure the win and the title for the Knights.

“We weathered the storm,” said Price Coach Jill Smith. “All season long this is what these girls did. They got tired, but they got their second wind and we pushed the tempo.”

Despite being disappointed, the Saints players showed sportsmanship and grace in interviews.

“We overcame a lot this season and had faith in each other and it got us to the finals,” said Roa.

Roa’s teammate Lucila Medina had a similar perspective.

“It took a while, but we grew together as a team and we helped each other out with our strengths and weaknesses,” Medina said.

The Saints were dealt a severe blow late in the game when Broadax went down with what appeared to be an ankle injury. She was helped off the court and did not return.

Santa Ana Coach Tony Jarjoura said he expects her to be OK.

“These girls fought every day and that’s what got us here,” said Jarjoura. “It was heartbreaking when we started out the season with so many losses, but they dug deep down and showed their hearts and made something special of this season. I’m so proud of them.”

The Saints’ Yarexy Diaz concurred with her coach.

“We pushed each other and lifted each other up,” said Diaz. “We built a bond and we never gave up.”

The Saints got off to a slow start and trailed 10-5 after the first quarter. However, Roa, Broadax and Danimi Balboa sparked a 16-8 run in the second quarter and gave Santa Ana a 21-18 lead at the break.

Both teams are headed to the state tournament which begins next week.

–Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone