By Steve Ramirez
@SteveRRamirez on Twitter
EL MONTE — Bishop Amat High School has won the Gary Houston Memorial Christmas girls basketball Classic so much over the years, it’s almost like the Lancers’ home tournament.
Bishop Amat, which has won the 19th annual even 11 times, will get a chance tonight at an even dozen.
Paulina Santana scored a career-high 27 points, including 12 in a key second-quarter run, and the Lancers advanced to the championship game with a 50-40 victory over Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary in the semifinals Friday night at Arroyo High School.
Janae Chamois also had 11 points for Bishop Amat, which improved to 7-1. The Lancers will face South Torrance, a 43-41 winner over Oak Hills, in tonight’s title game at 7:30 p.m. at Arroyo High School.
Sylvia Garcia had 21 points for Cantwell, which slipped to 6-3. The Cardinals will face Oak Hills at 6.
Bishop Amat, getting 12 points on four 3-pointers from Santana in the second quarter, led 26-22 at halftime before using two surges to lead 41-29 at halftime. Cantwell countered with an 11-3 run in the fourth quarter before losing, 50-40.
Bishop Amat coach Richard Wiard: “We were OK (Friday). I don’t think it was our best defensive game. I know it wasn’t our performance. But obviously, we shot the ball well. But we can’t win a lot of games if we don’t get scoring closer to the basket. Our two starting post players had four points. We have to get the ball closer to the basket.”
Cantwell coach Omar Villalta: “We’re a resilient bunch. We’re not going to die. We pushed the ball. We play the speed game. We knew, even down 16, that if we push the ball, play defense, we will be fine.”
GARY HOUSTON MEMORIAL CHRISTMAS CLASSIC
Bishop Amat 50, Cantwell 40
South Torrance 43, Oak Hill 41
Bishop Amat vs. South Torrance, 7:30 p.m.