Saturday afternoon, rain was pounding on the roof of Tiger Gym on the campus of San Luis Obispo High, but on the inside, a storm of a different kind was a-brewin’.
With thunder from the crowd, rain on the court from a leaky roof, some lightning after 1/3 of the gym’s lights went out, and an on-court hurricane of green, blue and gold — the clash between two of the best high school girls basketball teams on the Central Coast was of epic proportions.
In the championship of the Moriarty Enterprises Holiday Classic, it was the Knights of St. Joseph (4-0) that weathered the storm, topping the Arroyo Grande Eagles (5-3) 54-36 to claim the tournament crown.
The 18-point margin of victory does little to express the closeness and intensity of the game.
For the first half, the Eagles were right with the Knights, stride for stride as they limited the defending CIF champs to a season low 54 points.
At halftime, the Eagles trailed 27-21, well within striking distance.
“We didn’t get flustered when they stayed with us,” St. Joseph head coach Ed Torres said. “It was a good game, we were level-headed and played with a lot of confidence.”
Then the Knights started to pull away.
Knights sophomore Heather Madrigal led the charge, scoring seven points in both the third and fourth quarters for the bulk of her game-high 19 points.
In the fourth, the Knights completely shutdown the Eagles offensive attack, limiting them to six points over the final eight minutes.
“The second half I thought defensively we did a better job getting in passing lanes, a better job helping out on screens, a better job stepping out on the shooters, just an overall better half court defensive half,” Torres said.
The Knights opened the final quarter with a 13-2 run to put the game on ice.
The Eagles found success in the first half by limiting the Knights’ star center Aly Beebe to just four points, largely a credit to strong team defense and the comparable size of Eagles’ center Rachel Ventura, who had a team-high 10 points.
Once Ventura got in foul trouble in the third quarter, Beebe and the offense settled in.
“Losing Rachel killed us,” Eagles coach Dwight MacDonald said. “She’s the only person long enough on the coast to match up with Beebe, so you take her out of the equation and look what happened. She did a great job playing defense then she gets in foul trouble and we go from a two-point lead to a six-point deficit.”
Haley MacDonald hit three key 3-point shots in the first half to be the Eagles second leading scorer with nine.
Guard Tiffany Kinson had 11 points, Analise Riezebos finished with 12 and Beebe ended her day with 10, as four Knights finished in double digits.
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The Knights, who won the tournament last year, start the season a perfect 4-0.
“A quote coach Torres is, ‘It’s not how good we were, it’s not how good we are, it’s how good we can be,’” Madrigal said.
So how good can they be?
“I think we can go all the way,” Madrigal replied confidently.
The Knights continue their season next Saturday when they travel to the Santa Barbara Tournament.
Nipomo 46, Santa Maria 28
Cami Castillo scored 15 points as the Titans (4-5) finished 3-1 in the tournament.
Cassandra Lewis scored nine points for the Saints.
Laguna Blanca-Bishop Diego Tourney
Coast Valley League rival North County Christian outscored Valley Christian Academy 19-9 in the fourth quarter and defeated the Lions (0-5) 53-44.
Una Hertzog led VCA with 16 points, 13 rebounds and six steals. Alisa Fortier had 15 rebounds, six points and four steals for VCA. Kari Humann added 11 points.
FILLMORE — Santa Ynez couldn’t overcome a rough second quarter and fell 59-40 to Oxnard Channel Islands in the Consolation championship game.
The Raiders outscored the Pirates 18-4 in the seond quarter. Wyatt Garley scored a game-high 14 points for Santa Ynez (1-3) Saturday.
Gabriel Camacho led the Raiders (2-3) with 12 points. Cesar Rivera had 11.
Arroyo Grande Optimist Tournament
Derick Beasley led the host team with nine points as the Eagles beat Atascadero 55-39 in the third place game.