During the playoffs, this same St. Mary’s person leaves a comment at the end of Amat game stories. Why the No. 1 team in the nation wants Amat so bad is curious. But here’s a hint, this is the third time they will meet in the state finals, St. Mary’s won in 2004, Amat avenged it a year later in 2005. Now I get it, but like I told coach Wiard, Hickory had a better shot than they do…
Very nice article, this is going to be one heck of a game. Even before you guys lost to Inglewood in the sectionals I knew you would be playing us for the state title. Your game has changed, and you deserve to be where you are today. Now get ready for a game unlike any you have ever seen. In a recent game we kept the opponent from crossing midcourt for nearly three minutes. But enough of that, weve seen each other before. See you Saturday, we’ll be the team cutting down the nets. Were waiting for you….
— St. Mary’s of Stockton #1 in the USA
By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
The celebration is over for the Bishop Amat High School girls basketball team, and justifiably so.
The Lancers won the CIF Southern California Division III championship last Saturday with an upset of Inglewood. That’s the good news. The bad news is St. Mary’s of Stockton (33-1) comes calling in the state title game and that’s reason enough to end any party early. “I’d say we’re a decided underdog,” Bishop Amat coach Richard Wiard said after beginning his research on St. Mary’s, which is ranked No. 1 in the nation by several publications. “They’re averaging 82 points per game. I don’t think we’ve scored 82 points in a game all year.”
Amat’s been on a tear since the state playoffs started. After being booted from the CIF-Southern Section semis by Inglewood, the Lancers (27-7) have been an upset machine.
Amat avenged the Inglewood loss by stunning the Sentinels in Saturday’s regional final at Galen Center.
Before that, Amat posted upsets on the road over Santa Margarita and Agoura.
“I think we’re playing better and with more confidence,” Wiard said. “Every victory we get adds to that.
“We’re going to need all the confidence we can get going into Saturday. But at least we’re playing our best basketball at the right time of year.”
Amat’s victory over Inglewood has been the biggest stunner in the Lancers’ run. Inglewood had little trouble with Amat in the first meeting, beating the Lancers by 15 points
in a game that wasn’t close after halftime. But last Saturday the Sentinels saw a different group of Lancers.
“I did feel like we could beat them,” Wiard said. “I felt that way for two reasons. Number one is that we’re playing better now than we did when we played before. And No. 2 is that we were playing with more confidence than we had back then because we were able to beat Santa Margarita and Agoura.”
Arielle Wideman and Leticia Galarza led Amat with 17 points apiece. Andrea Villanueva pitched in with her usual strong defense.
The Lancers got late free throws from Villanueva and Galarza to take a two-point lead before Inglewood tried to tie or take the lead on its final possession. Villanueva and Michelle Yamamoto forced Inglewood’s star point guard Hazel Ramirez to pass the ball rather than taking the final shot. Inglewood missed and Vianai Austin got the rebound to secure the victory.
As good as Amat’s defense was Saturday, Wiard knows his team will be tested more than ever by a St. Mary’s team that boasts two McDonald’s All-Americans in Chelsea Gray and Afure Jemerigbe.
Gray will play at Duke next season and is the Parade National Player of the Year. Jemerigbe will play at Cal.
Saturday’s state final will be the third time in seven years that Amat’s played St. Mary’s for the state title. The Lancers lost to St. Mary’s in 2004 but beat them in 2005 to complete a 35-0 season. Those games were at Arco Arena in Sacramento. Amat won’t have to travel nearly as far on Saturday when the teams meet at Cal-State Bakersfield.
“I hope that helps us,” Wiard said of playing closer to home. “I know that when we played them in the past they had just played their regional at Arco and their CIF final there a week before that.
“So they were playing their third straight game at Arco when we were playing our first.”
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