MONTCLAIR - It was a historic time for Mary Star Of The Sea High School sports, not to mention for host Montclair High as well considering it was the first-ever CIF State Southern California Regional playoff game for both girls basketball teams.
However, it was the visiting Stars who came on out with even more history by grabbing a hard-fought 34-31 victory over the Cavaliers in this CIF State Division 5 Southern California Regional first round struggle. In spite of the fact that Mary Star only shot five free throws for the entire night opposed to the 19 free-throw attempts by Montclair, the Stars are moving on to the quarterfinals against second-seeded Ramona of Riverside on Thursday.
The first quarter was at a snail's pace for Mary Star (16-15) overall as they, like Montclair (18-13) were both trying to shake off demoralizing losses to Linfield Christian of Temecula, who dashed both these school's hopes of capturing a CIF-Southern Section Division 5-AA championship last week.
Shots weren't dropping in the first quarter for the Stars as they only made 2-of-13 shots, yet the Cavaliers only led 9-4 at quarter's end. In the second quarter, things seemed to go haywire for Mary Star as both sophomores Isabella Serrano and Karla Rocha were both saddled with three personal fouls. Montclair would lead 15-10 with two minutes to play before the spark finally came for the Stars to pull through.
Sophomore guard Kaitlyn Oasay, who provides a lot of toughness on the defensive side of the ball and quietly produces in other areas on offense, finally took it upon herself to put Mary Star back in the game, taking advantage of a sagging 1-3-1 zone defense and drilling a three-pointer from the right wing. Then after forcing a turnover, Rocha was inserted back into the game and she promptly drills a three-pointer (her only points of the night), to give the Stars a 16-15 lead. Oasay made 1-of-2 free throws make it a 17-15 lead at halftime.
Amazingly enough, Mary Star would never trail again even with the second half being evenly matched, but whenever Montclair got close, the Stars always had an answer.
With the score 21-20 midway through the third quarter after a Montclair basket, senior guard Hailey Jaramilla would bank in a three-pointer to make it 24-20, and the Stars would only lead 25-22 at the end of the third quarter before Serrano opened off the fourth quarter with a three-pointer and a backdoor cut for a layup off a great feed from junior guard Sarah Leyba.
Suddenly, the Stars would lead 30-24 with 6:25 to play... and then Serrano fouled out of the game on a reach-in foul.
With Mary Star's best ball handler suddenly gone for the rest of the night, the Cavaliers couldn't fully capitalize even though they would cut the lead to 30-27 with 3:24 remaining in the game. Quickly taking the initiative, Oasay's three-pointer rattled in-and-out, but Rocha grabbed the offensive rebound and found senior center Lorraine Medina open for a layup to make it 32-27 with three minutes left.
Then with two minutes to play, Oasay would come up clutch once again for the Stars. Taking a backdoor feed from Rocha, Oasay would find herself open and she would get the layup with 1:46 to play for a 34-28 lead, also the final time Mary Star would score.
Montclair could get no closer than the eventual final score as Leyba made two crucial steals in the closing 90 seconds and also got the most important rebound of the night, rebounding Medina's missed free throw on front end of a 1-and-1 situation before running out the final ten seconds of the clock as the Cavaliers failed to foul.
Serrano would lead Mary Star with 11 points, seven steals and four rebounds, showing tremendous hustle throughout the night. Medina chipped in with seven points and eight rebounds, while Oasay had six points, three assists and three rebounds for the Stars, who garner one of their biggest wins in school history, and easily the greatest win in program history for now.
It's also the first CIF State Southern California Regional win as well for the San Pedro, California-based high schools to make up for a first round loss in Division 4 last November by San Pedro High girls volleyball, who still won the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division 1 championship before the four-set Regional defeat at Beaumont on November 6, 2018.