Coming out aggressively on both ends of the floor, the sixth-seeded La Costa Canyon girls basketball team led from start-to-finish in a 60-45 CIF Open Division quarterfinal win over No. 3 seed host Santa Fe Christian Saturday night. Senior guard Colleen Haggerty led the 23-5 Mavericks with 20 points and junior backcourt running mate Alexis Machain had 12. According to Haggerty, who has been part of LCC playoff squads the past two years, there was plenty of purpose behind her team’s performance.
“As a senior, there’s definitely a sense of urgency,” she said. “It’s now or never and we were ready to play. In the first half we came out with a lot of energy on both ends of the floor.”
Looking like a prep version of the Golden State Warriors in the first 16 minutes, everything La Costa Canyon did seemed to work. With the running game in full gear—Haggerty and Machain combined for 20 points and the Mavericks drained six threes in the first half—while simultaneously frustrating the Santa Fe Christian senior duo of Emma Dudley and Ashley Kowack (limiting each to just four points through the first two periods), the Mavericks took a 38-21 edge into the locker room at halftime.
Head Coach Mario Flores credited the defense for his team getting out of the gate so quickly. “We came out tough defensively and just shut them down,” said Flores afterward. “We wanted to double Dudley and not let her get off—she had 30 last time we played.
“Our kids, especially Haley (Dumiak) did a good job and executed that game plan as well as could be expected.” The defensive aptitude proved to be a good thing since the Mavericks’ shooting went south after the break. With 1:20 remaining in the third quarter, the Eagles had narrowed the gap to just five (41-36) and LCC seemed unable to buy a basket. At that juncture, Haggerty made a big play to stop the bleeding.
With the shot clock running down, the senior dribbled to the free throw line, pulled up for what looked like a mid-range jumper but instead threaded a slick bounce pass to sophomore Hannah Etheridge who dropped a short, one-hander into the hoop. Santa Fe Christian never got any closer and Mavericks hit their free throws down the stretch to put it away, going 11-of-13 from the charity stripe with Haggerty canning all six of her opportunities.
“We always talk about consistency and I told our kids to just stay focused,” said Flores. “We knew they were going to make a run, I just hoped it wouldn’t be that big of a run. When you have seven seniors and are as well-schooled as they are, I knew they weren’t going to take it lying down.”
Santa Fe Christian defeated La Costa Canyon, 52-46, on its home floor two days before Christmas. In that one, the Eagles rebounded from a seven-point fourth quarter deficit and Haggerty said that experience came in handy Saturday.
“Every loss we’ve had this year has played a role in where we are today,” said Haggerty. “We had a bad game that day, Kaylee (Berry) got hurt, they just kept getting the ball to Dudley and things went downhill.
“We’ve watched film of that fourth quarter at least five times and one of our goals tonight was to stop Emma and Ashley.” Although that pair netted 12 and 24 points respectively, most came after the damage had been done with the Eagles trying to play catch-up.
Flores tossed plenty of praise Haggerty’s way. “Colleen has been an unheralded star for us,” said Flores.
“She’s intense, focused and smart. She’s stepped up as big as any kid in this program ever has.”
SFC’s third-year head coach Laurie Byrd was matter-of-fact in her assessment. “They punched first and we really didn’t figure it out until the third quarter,” said Byrd, whose club finishes up 19-4. “We were way out of sync. I don’t really know why but we weren’t making shots and weren’t defending.”
The CIF semi-finals are next up for Flores’ cagers and that means a trip to Mt. Miguel (28-1) Wednesday night to face the Open bracket’s No. 2 seed—another team that handed LCC one of its five losses. Those five teams finished the season with a combined mark of 104-26 and Flores relishes the opportunity for another rematch.
“We really tried to prepare ourselves for this (by playing a tough pre-league schedule),” he said. “We wanted to get in as many good solid games as we could—test ourselves so that we were not shocked in the playoffs like we were last year in the first round by Bishop’s.” That theory definitely worked Saturday night.
The two semi-final winners will move on to the CIF Open Division championship game, Friday, at SDSU’s Viejas Arena. Three-time defending Open Division champion Mission Hills and La Jolla Country Day hook up on the other side of the bracket.
THIS WEEK’S CIF SCHEDULE (North Coast teams):
Boys Basketball (all games 7 p.m. tip)
Tue., Feb. 27 Mission Hills @ Santa Fe Christian (D-I)
Wed., Feb. 28 Mission Bay @ Torrey Pines (Open)
Wed., Feb. 28 Brawley @ Carlsbad (D-II)
Girls Basketball (all games 7 p.m. tip)
Tue., Feb. 27 Carlsbad @ Vista (D-II)
Wed., Feb. 28 La Costa Canyon @ Mt. Miguel (Open)
Wed., Feb. 28 Valley Center @ San Dieguito Academy (D-IV)
Wed., Feb. 28 La Costa Canyon @ Torrey Pines (Open) 5 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 28 San Marcos @ Cathedral Catholic (Open) 6 p.m.
Tue., Feb. 27 Scripps Ranch @ La Costa Canyon (D-I) 5 p.m.