VENICE - San Pedro High girls basketball hasn't had a season as glorious as this... since it was 1986.
Fast-forward to Friday, February 24, 2023, for the next date of glory for the Lady Pirates as they went overtime to defeat Chatsworth Charter, 52-51 in the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division 2 championship game at Venice High to capture the program's fourth CIF girls basketball title, and first in nearly four decades.
With this win, the Lady Pirates (21-8 overall) capped off an incredible run as they have now won 12 straight games which included going unbeaten in the Marine League for their first league crown since... well, 1986.
Everything seemed to work against fourth-year head coach Kevin Simpson in the midway point of the fourth quarter, as two of his top scorers, both junior forwards in Shalia Coleman and Maia Wooldridge had to exit the game permanently with five personal fouls each, and his leading scorer, junior point guard Noelani Raigans was out of the game suffering from cramps.
With 49.9 seconds to play, Chatsworth senior guard Destiny Silva buried a corner three-pointer to beat the shot clock and put the second-seeded Chancellors (16-16) ahead, 43-38. The title was seemingly slipping away for top-seeded San Pedro... until Raigans happened.
On San Pedro's next possession, Chatsworth's full court press was broken with crisp passes, leading to Raigans drilling a desperation three from NBA range to cut San Pedro's deficit down to two. Then Raigans immediately stripped Silva from behind in the backcourt for a steal, narrowly missed a potential go-ahead corner three, then got it back after an offensive rebound from senior guard Jaliyah Robertson and got fouled with 23.8 seconds to play.
Although she struggled early on from the free-throw line, Raigans cool as a cucumber, easily hit both free throws to tie the score at 43.
Chatsworth senior guard Madison Guerrero missed the potential go-ahead midrange jumper, and San Pedro forced a jump ball situation with the arrow pointing in their favor giving them one last shot with 3.6 remaining. Raigans misfired a hurried shot from half court, and it was time... for overtime.
With the score tied again at 45, Guerrero hit a three from the left wing to give the Chancellors their final lead of the night with 2:07 to play in overtime before Raigans mustered every last bit of strength to will the Lady Pirates to victory,
First, Raigans scored on a driving backdoor cut layup to slice Chatsworth's lead to 48-47 with 1:51 left, then after the defense forced a turnover the next time down, San Pedro called on Raigans again...
Taking the inbounds pass in stride, the two-time All-City guard eluded a steal attempt then casually stepped up to the right wing and kissed her three-point attempt off the glass and through to put San Pedro ahead for good at 50-48 with 1:33 remaining in overtime, then just a minute later, Raigans kept the ball alive after a trapping steal by junior guard Natalia Garcia and then found Robertson for the layup and a 52-48 Lady Pirate edge.
After Guerrero made 1-of-3 free throws, Chatsworth got the ball back via a jump ball call, but Guerrero missed the potential tying three, with Raigans clearing the rebound and getting fouled with 7.7 seconds remaining. Raigans however, missed both free throws.
With 5.2 seconds left... Chatsworth had one final chance to send it to a second overtime, but freshman guard Victoria Menjivar shockingly passed up shooting the three, and even though senior center Emily Cuevas made the final shot of the game at the buzzer... it was only for two points, allowing San Pedro to exhale, survive, and celebrate a hard-earned CIF championship victory that could have gone either way.
Once the Lady Pirates got all their championship medals, the final player called to get her medal, fittingly enough, was Raigans, who finished with a game-high 18 points, six rebounds, six steals, two assists... and a well-deserved cascading and serenading of her teammates and San Pedro fans with the chant of "M.V.P!" for a good 20 seconds.
Despite fouling out, Coleman was also sensational for San Pedro with 17 points and three rebounds, scoring 9 of her points in the first half where San Pedro led, 21-14 at halftime, and had a lead as big as 30-16 in the third quarter before Chatsworth closed the quarter on a 13-0 run. Wooldridge finshed with 8 points, four steals and two rebounds for San Pedro, while Chatsworth was paced by Guerrero's 15 points and 11 points from senior center/forward Cyrielley Becerra-Rodriguez. Silva and Cuevas each scored 8 points for the Chancellors.
En route to the winning the Division 2 championship, San Pedro defeated Roosevelt of Los Angeles (70-48), Marine League rival Carson (69-62) and Bravo Medical Magnet (50-39) in the prior rounds before outlasting Chatsworth from the powerful West Valley League.
Senior forward Aleisha Fizer grabbed a team-high five rebounds for San Pedro, who will now await their spot in the CIF Southern California Regional playoffs as the pairings will be announced on Sunday.
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