It’s near impossible to argue that the Etiwanda High School girls basketball team’s one-point overtime victory Wednesday over a two-time defending state champion ranked No. 1 in the country wasn’t the most significant in school history.
The Eagles want a ring with which to remember it.
After preventing top-seeded Santa Ana Mater Dei from playing for a fifth straight CIF-SS championship, No. 5 seed Etiwanda will take on Corona Santigao Friday night for the Division 1AA title.
Etiwanda reached the semifinals in 2010 before exiting the playoffs in the quarterfinals the last two seasons, each time losing to either Long Beach Poly or Mater Dei.
“We’re a good program and everyone respects us and gives us our due,” Etiwanda coach Anders Anderson said. “But until we do something tangible like win a ring, there’s always going to be a ‘yeah, but.’ The girls realize that they want to finish this.”
Finishing the playoff run with a victory tonight is a two-pronged ordeal. Recovering from Wednesday’s emotional scene will be no small task on top of the matchup against revenge-minded Santiago (28-2).
Nearly three months ago, Etiwanda (28-2) defeated Santiago in the finals of the Inland Valley Classic Tournament. The Eagles raced out to a lead and never looked back in the 74-64 win on Dec. 8. Anderson isn’t so sure that win will help Etiwanda come tonight at 8:45.
“Santiago wants to prove that was a fluke,” Anderson said. “I think it will make them play harder than they would have otherwise. (Coach David) Wolfe knows what we did to beat them and he’s going to adjust to that. We have to come up with something different.”
Despite Etiwanda’s victory over the Sharks, Santiago received the No. 3 seed likely due in large part to its win over a Alhambra Mark Keppel team that beat the Eagles. Etiwanda wasn’t happy when its fifth seed landed it in the same half of the bracket as nemesis Long Beach Poly and undefeated top seed Mater Dei. Before Etiwanda eked out an overtime win over Mater Dei on Wednesday, Santiago won its fourth consecutive playoff game by double digits on Tuesday, a 53-41 victory over No. 2 seed Fullerton Troy.
Etiwanda and Santiago make for an intriguing matchup in that they both feature an inside-outside attack. Coming off a 27-point performance in the semifinals, post Amy Okonkwo is complemented by speedy Etiwanda point guard McKynzie Fort. Santiago’s 6-foot-3 Monique Billings is the No. 2 in the 1-2 punch led by guard Chrishae Rowe.
“With Chrishae, you never know where the ball is going to go at any point,” Anderson said. “She can shoot it, pass it and she’s a good ball handler. She can play the one, two, three and four.”