By Jeremy Balan
Led by a game-high 26 points from guard Kristina Lum, Lowell High School overcame an uncharacteristically bad shooting night in a 52-44 win over Menlo-Atherton in the CIF Division IV State Championship Tournament on Tuesday at Kezar Pavilion.
“She’s the one girl that has been holding us up all year,” Lowell Head Coach Aki Kuwada said of Lum. “In big games, she always steps up.”
No other Lowell (29-3) players scored in double-digits and the Cardinals missed their first 11 shots from the floor.
“It was kind of a let down after the [AAA] championship game. I knew it was going to take us a while to get going,” Kuwada said. “The girls are so thrilled about winning league, it takes them a while to understand how important the next level is.”
Lum had 16 points in the first half including four three-pointers.
“She takes what she they give her,” Kuwada said. “They gave her the threes in the first half and then took it away in the second half. She does whatever she has to do to help.”
Lum, the team’s captain, knew she had to take control for the Cardinals to advance.
“As the [team’s] captain, I have to help take charge and contribute a lot,” Lum said. “We have that mentality that we want to keep going strong. After our game against Lincoln [in the AAA final], we just wanted to come out strong again and do what we do.”
Lowell led for most of the game, but Menlo-Atherton (15-17) cut the lead to 43-42 with a basket from senior forward Victoria Fakalata with 2:50 remaining in the game. Kuwada immediately called a timeout and the Cardinals went on a 9-0 run to put the game out of reach.
Fakalata had a team-high 24 points and was a force inside for the Bears.
Earlier in the season, Lowell routed Menlo-Atherton 58-31, but Fakalata did not play.
“We’re going to miss her,” Menlo-Atherton Head Coach Pamela Wimberly said of Fakalata, who is graduating this year. “I’ve had her since she was a freshman and I’ve seen her develop over the four years. She’s become a very tough basketball player.”
With the win, Lowell advances to the second round of the Northern Bracket to face fourth-seeded Kennedy High School (28-4) of Sacramento on Thursday. Kennedy beat Lowell in the second round last season and advanced to the Northern California final.
“They’re tough, but we matchup well with them,” Kuwada said of Kennedy. “It’ll be a good game.”