There was plenty of drama during Ayala’s triple-overtime loss to Manhattan Beach Mira Costa in the girls basketball Division II Southern California Final on Saturday.
But there were also some other storylines going on not as visible to the naked eye.
While only one San Bernardino County or Inland Valley team has ever made it to the state finals in basketbal: the 1986 Chino girls coached by Joe Murillo in Division II, Ayala coach Mel Sims was trying to get back to the finals. Although obviously Ayala has never been to the state finals, Sims was the head coach in 1990 at Pasadena Muir when the Muir girls defeated San Diego Point Loma in the Division II final.
Inland Valley boys teams to lose in the regional final:
1999: San Dimas, D3. 2004: Etiwanda, D1
Girls teams to lose in regional final:
2007: Miller, D1 and Norco, D2. 2008: Ayala D2.
In Ayala’s loss, the Bulldogs struggled at the free throw line all game long, making only eight of 19.
Mira Costa wasn’t great either, making 16 of 26. But Mustang Megan Richardson (8 of 14) made her final 4 free throws after her shooting coach (Bryn Britton, Torrance Bishop Montgomery head coach) texted a teammate on the bench during the game to tell her what was wrong. One of the things apparently was she was too flat-footed. Richardson got the message, and it apparently helped.
The game was an end to an era for all the Ayala seniors, most notably UCLA-bound Rebekah Gardner and Oregon-bound Jasmin Holliday, who helped lead Ayala to back-to-back CIF-SS championship games. But Ayala also had a strong group of sophomores this year, meaning the Bulldogs will probably be good next year and might be back at the regional finals in 2 years. Sophomore Rhema Gardner, Rebekah’s younger sister, had 15 points and 11 rebounds Saturday before getting hurt in the first overtime. Sophomore Ariel Marsh set a record with five 3-pointers and scored a team-high 17 points. And it was sophomore Krishawn Tennies who replaced injured Rhema and made a clutch 3-pointer to sent it to a second overtime.