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Freshman leads L.A. Windward to its first girls' basketball state title

Jordin Canada makes the pivotal three-point shot in a 51-47 victory over Albany St. Mary's in the girls' Division IV final.

March 26, 2011|By Steve Galluzzo

Reporting from Sacramento

Most coaches would hesitate to rely on a freshman with the game on the line, but not Los Angeles Windward's Steve Smith. Especially when that freshman is as talented and poised as Jordin Canada.

The Wildcats' point guard hit a three-pointer from the top of the key with 47 seconds left to break a 47-47 tie and Windward went on to defeat Albany St. Mary's, 51-47, in the girls' Division IV final Saturday morning at Power Balance Pavilion. It was the first state title for the Windward girls, and there may be more titles on the horizon for a team with four sophomores and three freshmen.

"The first option on the play we ran was to go inside to Imani [Stafford], knowing that if they sink in a shooter will be open," said Smith, who has already scheduled games against Mater Dei and Long Beach Poly next season. "I have no reservations about letting anyone take a shot on our team."

USC women's coach and former Lakers forward Michael Cooper was watching courtside and had to like what he saw in Stafford, Windward's 6-foot-7 junior center, who had 18 points and 19 rebounds and blocked a shot by St. Mary's forward Shannon Mauldin with less than 20 seconds left. Windward did not lose a game this season with Stafford in the lineup.

Mater Dei overcomes slow start

After falling behind 16-4 in the first seven minutes, Santa Ana Mater Dei's size and talent took over and the Monarchs won the Division I final, 59-47, over Berkeley, which was trying to become the only public school to win at this year's state championships.

Connecticut-bound Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis finished with 33 points and eight rebounds — the seventh-highest point total in girls' state finals history — and Kiki Alofaituli added 11 points for the Monarchs, who won their second straight state title.

Mater Dei (34-1), ranked No. 1 in the nation by ESPN Rise, took its first lead at 19-18 on a basket by Mosqueda-Lewis with two minutes left in the first half. The Monarchs led by 16 points going into the fourth quarter, but Berkeley (29-2) closed to within 49-46 on a basket by Khristina Hunter with 2:55 left. Mosqueda-Lewis put the game out of reach with a three-pointer that gave Mater Dei a 56-47 lead with 57 seconds left.

"They came out with a lot of energy, and we weren't playing Mater Dei basketball," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "We fought so hard to get that lead, and we weren't going to give it up."

Three-pointers lift St. Joseph

It took a while for the Santa Maria St. Joseph offense to kick in, but guards Kelsi English and Brianna Bognuda hit back-to-back three-pointers in the final 30 seconds of the third quarter and the Knights used a 7-2 spurt at the start of the fourth en route to a 53-42 victory over Oakland Bishop O'Dowd in the Division III final.

"Those threes were huge," St. Joseph Coach Ed Torres said. "We worked hard to get even, and those shots got the crowd into the game. Our thing is to keep shooting and eventually it'll go in."

Junior center Alyson Beebe scored 21 points before fouling out with 1:12 left with the Knights ahead 49-37. Bognuda scored 15 points and fellow guard English added 11 for St. Joseph (29-6), which won its only other state championship in 1991.

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