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.
For 47 minutes and 59 seconds, Torrey Pines' Ramsey Hopkins did little to distinguish himself in a San Diego Section Division I semifinal against La Costa Canyon of Carlsbad.
It was in the last second, however, that the senior forward made his mark.
With just seconds remaining and the Falcons trailing by one point, Hopkins grabbed an offensive rebound and hit an eight-foot buzzer beater in a dramatic 57-56 victory on March 4.
Torrey Pines lost to top-seeded El Camino of Oceanside in the Div. I title game on March 8, but the Falcons advanced to the state championship tournament. They played Tesoro of Rancho Santa Margarita on March 9.
The La Costa Canyon game was the third meeting between the two teams, who shared the Avocado League title after splitting their previous meetings.
That Ramsey, a role player who finished with four points in the LCC game was the hero, in many ways typifies the way the Falcons have played this year. Without a true star, the Falcons have relied on teamwork and chemistry, making an improbable run starting two sophomores and one freshman.
"We're a very balanced team, and in different games our players have had to take on different responsibilities," Falcons coach John Olive said.
Nick Kerr scored 13 points to lead the Falcons against La Costa Canyon, and Joe Rahon and Colin Porter each added 12 points. Porter also had nine rebounds.
Rahon scored 13 points in defeat for the Falcons in the El Camino game.
"El Camino was very good and they really forced us to play a little faster than we would have liked," Olive said. "They're the No. 1 team in the county and they definitely showed why."
The Falcons dropped to 26-5 going into the state playoffs, a remarkable accomplishment in a year they were supposed to be rebuilding.
"We've had a lot of close teams over years and a lot of coachable teams over years, but for everyone to come together and accept their roles on the team, the freshman, sophomores and juniors and seniors, that's been very special," Olive said.
Cathedral Catholic lost to La Jolla 44-39 in the Division III title game on March 7.
Matthew Rosenburg scored nine points to lead the Dons and Evertt Benyard added eight points.
The Dons advanced to the title game after upsetting University City of San Diego 51-49 in a March 4 semifinal.
Nick Madden scored 22 points to lead the Dons and Matt Moynihan added 11 points.
The Dons took a 17-13 record into their March 10 state championship playoff opener against Ocean View of Huntington Beach.
Torrey Pines defeated Westview 1-0 in the March 7 San Diego Section Division I title game at Valhalla High of El Cajon.
Jose Aquino scored the game's only goal for Torrey Pines, and Falcons goalie Blake Hylen had nine saves.
Aquino scored two goals to lead the Falcons to a 4-1 victory over Escondido in a March 3 semifinal.
The Falcons improved to 18-4-3.
Josh Cintas scored two goals to lead Cathedral Catholic to a 4-1 victory over Southwest of San Diego in the Div. III title game on March 7.
Jacob Holt and Nick Mancinelli each scored one goal for Cathedral Catholic, and Dons goalie Drew Illijeski had six saves.
The Dons improved their overall record to 17-4-1.
Westview defeated defending Div. I champion Torrey Pines 1-0 in dramatic fashion in the in the March 7 title game Valhalla High of El Cajon that was decided on penalty kicks.
Westview won the shootout 3-2.
The Falcons advanced to the title game after defeating Rancho Buena Vista of Vista 3-0 in the March 4 semifinals.
Alexandra Bailey, Katie Trees and Catherine Cabot each scored one goal for the Falcons, and goalie Annie Heaton had two saves.
Westview improved to 23-2-4, and the Falcons dropped to 19-3-2.