By John Sherrard, Correspondent
SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – Both the St. Paul and JSerra high school girls basketball teams were in uncharted territory in the CIF State Southern California playoffs on Saturday.
JSerra won its first-ever opening round game last week while St. Paul returned to the second round after a nine-year absence.
JSerra kept its season alive by defeating visiting St. Paul, 55-32, in a Division IV second-round game.
Fourth-seeded JSerra (25-7) will travel to top-seeded Serra (28-5), a 61-39 winner over St. Bonaventure of Ventura, on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. regional semifinal.
The Lions were led by sophomore guard Coco Miller with a game-high 24 points.
St. Paul was led by senior guard Priscilla Hildago with a team-high 16 points. Sophomore guard Clarissa Perez added 12 points.
“It was a very tough game and we knew they (JSerra) were going to be tough to play with,” Swordsmen assistant coach David Gomez said.
Gomez was filling in for head coach Robert Miller, who was not at the game because of illness.
“Priscilla (Hildago) and Clarissa (Perez) both played very, very well and I can’t say enough about them.”
St. Paul (20-13), which lost a tough 46-45 CIF-SS 4A title game a week earlier to St. Monica, jumped out to an early 7-4 lead in the first quarter behind three quick baskets by Perez, one coming from long range. The Lions then outscored St. Paul 12-3 late in the quarter behind six points from Miller.
Miller, the top scorer in Orange County, added eight more points in the second quarter.
The Lions, who have two forwards over 6-foot-2, held St. Paul senior forward Holly Shafer from scoring in the first half.
Hildago, who had all nine of the Swordsmen’s points in the second quarter, including a 3-pointer late in the quarter, brought St. Paul within eight, 25-17. Hildago was 5 for 5 at the free-throw line.
JSerra built up a 32-19 halftime lead.
“We came in and battled and knew it was going to be tough,” Hildago said. “Bigger teams you have to attack them and we were very confident coming in (Saturday). Our shots just weren’t going down.
“They (JSerra) were doubling Holly and we knew we had to get the ball outside.”
Hildago was making her first state playoff appearance this season after missing last year with an injury.
“We had an amazing season and accomplished our goals, whether we won or not,” Hildago said.
After the intermission, JSerra continued to build up the lead, which reached 21 points, 48-27, early in the fourth quarter.
St. Paul, which only had three players score in the game, had only 13 second-half points.