By Josh Levine
International High School represented Cinderella in the North Coast Section Division V championship game against top-seeded St. Joseph Notre Dame on Friday at Albany High School.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a storybook ending for the Jaguars.
Sixth-seeded International led 32-28 at the half and 48-44 after the third quarter, but the Pilots pulled out 70-68 win over the Jaguars to win their second-consecutive NCS championship.
The Jaguars (21-10) still had a chance to either win or tie with 7.8 seconds left, trailing by two with the ball.
On the inbound pass, International senior guard Denia Ebersole passed the ball to freshman guard Shayna Mehta, who passed the ball back to Ebersole after they crossed half court. The referees originally ruled a back-court violation, but after conferring with each other, overturned the call and the Jaguars got the ball back with 5.6 seconds left.
“We drew up the play and it was going to get us the shot that we wanted,” said International head coach Charlene Murphy. “They did waive that violation, but we had no timeouts to draw up another play and it was a scramble at the end of the game. It’s unfortunate that’s how it ended.”
St. Joseph (22-10) got 60 combined points from three guards, including 25 from Desiree Harris.
Harris was guarded for most of the game by International’s Melanie Fun, but late in the game Fun was accidentally struck in the mouth by a referee. Fun, who has braces, had to be removed from the game with 4 minutes left and the Jaguars up five points. By the time she returned with less than a minute remaining, the Pilots had taken a 68-65 lead.
“We couldn’t run the defense that had been working so well without her in,” Murphy said. “We knew what we had to do, but that really impacted our scheme. The most frustrating thing is that we didn’t get our ‘A’ game from all of our players.”
Despite the loss, the Jaguars have advanced further than any other team in the program’s history and will continue to play in the CIF State Championship tournament next week.
“I’m disappointed from today, but this just makes us more motivated,” Ebersole said. “The last minute was a classic choke and we didn’t make our free throws. Part of that falls on me and the leadership out there. We thought we would win, but we knew it would be tough. On to the next one. We have a chance to do something big.”
St. Joseph Notre Dame
Desiree Harris – 25
Samantha Maritzen – 18
Jessica de Mesa – 17
Melanie Shojinaga – 6
Two players 2 points each
Shayna Mehta – 24
Natalie Kelly – 19
Denia Ebersole – 17
Kassie Encinas – 4
Emilia Omerberg – 4