By Eric Terrazas, Staff Writer
This season’s St. Paul High School girls basketball team is looking to go where no previous Swordsmen team has gone before.
For the fourth time in 11 years, St. Paul is playing in a CIF-Southern Section championship game. The Swordsmen, however, have yet to bring home the ultimate prize.
St. Paul is hoping to change that today when it takes on St. Monica in the Division 4A title game, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana.
This will mark the season’s third meeting between the two Camino Real League rivals. Top-seeded St. Paul (20-11) swept the Mariners 53-43 and 53-49 en route to capturing the league crown with a 7-1 record. St. Monica (25-6), the division’s No. 2 seed, posted a second-best 6-2 mark in Camino Real play.
The Swordsmen know that beating the Mariners for a third time this season is not going to be easy.
“It’s going to be tough to beat St. Monica three times in a row,” St. Paul coach Robert Miller said. “It should be a game that is a great representation of Division 4A. It’s going to be fun. Hopefully, we’ll get a win this year.”
Three of St. Paul’s leading players are the senior trio of guard Priscilla Hidalgo and forwards Cassidy Carrillo and Holly Shafer.
Hidalgo scored 17 points, including the game-winning layup, in the Swordsmen’s 41-39 semifinal triumph over St. Bonaventure.
“It’s all about effort,” Hidalgo said. “We need to play all 32 minutes.”
Carrillo starred in St. Paul’s 50-34 quarterfinal win over Crossroads by pouring in a game-high 15 points and seven rebounds.
“We need to keep the same mentality,” Carrillo said. “We need to start out strong and keep our energy throughout the game.”
Shafer recorded eight points and six rebounds against Crossroads.
“They’re going to be harder to beat this time,” Shafer said.
St. Monica clinched its final-round berth by defeating Cantwell Sacred Heart, the Camino Real’s third-place team 49-45 in the semifinals.
The Mariners’ top player is senior Briana Harris, who scored a team-high 15 points in the victory against the Cardinals.
Freshman Elena Kostadinov also played a key role by scoring 13 points against Cantwell.
The Swordsmen have advanced to four consecutive semifinals but were unable to reach the finals until this season. St. Paul’s last title-game appearance was in 2005.
“We got over that hump,” Carrillo said. “We’re going to play the championship game with 100 percent effort.”
Hidalgo added, “We’re here finally. We’re not done yet. We have one more game.”