Week in sports: Canyon Crest girls fired up when it counted

Girls basketball

Canyon Crest Academy coach Terry Ryan always felt that his team was better than a 4-7 start reflected.

It's hard to argue with Ryan now.

The Ravens completed one of the most improbable playoff runs in recent memory, culminating with a 56-51 victory over Our Lady of the Peace of San Diego in the San Diego Section Division III title game at Jenny Craig Arena on March 7.

No. 4 CCA, advanced to the title game after shocking top-seeded Cathedral Catholic 71-60 in the semifinals.

The Ravens improved to 18-11 going into the state playoffs. Their March 10 state playoff game against Inglewood was just their second playoff home game in school history, and their section title appearance their first in school history in any sport.

Including their 68-38 quarterfinal upset win against Santana of Santee on Feb. 27, the Ravens upset three playoff teams with a combined 65-25 record by a total of 46 points.

Not bad for a fourth-year program fielding just its second class of seniors.

Ryan said the Ravens have caught fire the last two weeks, acknowledging it took his team a while to recover from early season injuries to two key players.

"If you knew what was going on on our team you'd understand we were much better than our record," he said.

What was going on was a sequence of crushing blows that started with Alisha Eckberg, a standout senior guard headed to San Jose State, missing most of the season with a knee injury she suffered in the second game of the season. Then about a week later, freshman post player Stephanie Beiler, who was projected to be the team's leading rebounder, suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Although the Ravens were projected to be a factor in D-III before the season started, they slipped under the radar in the intensely competitive Coastal South League, finishing third in a league that features perennial state powers La Jolla Country Day and Bishop's of La Jolla.

Eckberg scored 28 points and had nine rebounds to lead CCA against Cathedral Catholic. Meghan Brown scored 12 points and had eight rebounds and four assists, and Julia Brew added 12 points.

Victoria Lippert scored 33 points in defeat for the Dons and Katie Dollard added 13 points.

The Ravens set the tone early, opening with a 17-0 run and taking a 25-5 lead after the first the first quarter. They stretched their lead to 30 points late in the third quarter before the Dons made a frantic run in the fourth quarter.

The Dons concluded their season with a 20-9 overall record.

"(Cathedral Catholic's) a great team and we just happened to be playing our best game," Ryan said. "It was a big win for our school it was a really exciting moment for our players."

Eckberg scored 31 points to lead the Ravens against Our Lady of the Peace, and Alex Brunt-Pluta added 12 points and 13 rebounds.

Our Lady of the Peace dropped to 26-6 overall for the season.

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