The Point Loma High School girls' basketball team did what no other team in either the Southern Section or the Southern Regional playoffs could do--solve Lynwood's swarming defense.
Point Loma's antidote was defense. The Pointers threw the Knights off-balance just enough and at the right times Saturday night to record a 53-50 Southern Regional Division 1 championship victory at the Sports Arena.
Point Loma (30-1) advances to the State finals against the Northern Regional winner Saturday at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Arena.
Lynwood ended its season 28-4
As had been the case in the Knights' upset victories over Ventura Buena and Pasadena Muir in the 4-A playoffs, Lynwood hoped its scrappy defense and quickness could make up for its lack of height.
Lynwood did hold Point Loma's best player, Terri Mann, to only 11 points--far below her 27 per-game average--but it was the Pointers' defense that took control of the game.
Six-foot Michelle Collum is not the tallest Point Loma player, but she proved to be the Pointers' best defender as well as their best offensive player.
Collum hounded the Knights speedy guard Trise Jackson and still managed to score a game-high 19 points.
"They were a very, very, very fast team," said Collum. "That girl I was guarding (Jackson) was just like a bullet."
Jackson, a 5-foot 8-inch sophomore, scooted past Collum for a team-high 14 points. But Collum, a senior forward, held her in check early on as Point Loma led by as many as 10 points in the first half.
"I have two more years of this girl (Jackson)," Knight Coach Van Girard said. "I can't do anything but smile."
When Jackson made a layup and Antoinette White hit a short jumper, the Knights trailed by just two at 48-46 with less than three minutes to play.
The Pointers held off every Lynwood charge in the final minutes, however, and with Point Loma leading, 53-50, underdog Lynwood's improbable run through the playoffs ended on an equally improbable play.
It happened with 21 seconds left and Kim Bivins, who holds the distinction of being the only Knight over 6-feet tall, at the free-throw line shooting one-and-one.
Point Loma's Liza Carrillo and Lynwood's Anita Martinez leaned a little too far into the key as Bivins readied her shot. Martinez took a nose dive into the key, resulting in a lane violation and the ball awarded to Point Loma.
"The one thing was that they never tied us late," Point Loma Coach Lee Trepanier said.
"Really, we won it in the first half," he said. "We shut them down then."
Point Loma controlled the early going as Lynwood simply could not stop Collum, who scored mostly on fast-break layups.
Lynwood bottled up Mann, positioning Faye Sherrard behind her and Shurrell Johnson in front of her.
But they couldn't handle Mann and Collum.
Nor could they stop center Jessica Benton. In fact, Girard's gameplan called for the Knights to ignore her on the perimeter.
They didn't count on Benton shooting--and making--from this outside position.
But she hit three straight shots from just left of the free-throw line midway through the fourth quarter to hold off a Lynwood surge.