If there was any doubt that Long Beach Poly wouldn’t leave the Walter Pyramid with the CIF title, it was eliminated when senior forward Jasmine Dixon registered two blocks on one of Long Beach Millikan’s first possessions.
Dixon’s aggressiveness set the tone for a defensive masterpiece as Poly (26-2) out-hustled their way to a 66-33 win over their Moore league rival for their second consecutive CIF championship and third in the last four years.
Millikan (27-4) was held to the lowest point total in a Division IAA final, just one point shy of the previous record, which was set by Lynwood in the 2005 final - also against Poly.
It seems like it would be old hat for the Lady Jackrabbits to win another title but for a school synonymous with winning, each new title is just as exciting as the first.
“We never get tired of winning championships, that’s what Poly is all about,” head coach Carl Buggs said.
Dixon, who was selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American game next month, finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and four steals in an all-around performance that symbolized the message her team wanted to send.
“We had to go out there and prove that we weren’t ready in the [first game] but now, we are,” Dixon said.
In their third meeting , the Lady Jackrabbits avenged one of only two losses on the year with a vintage performance . On offense, they were poised and unstoppable in the post and on defense, they chased every loose ball with reckless abandon.
Senior forward Courtney Clements finished with a team-high eight points as the Arizona-bound forward with hampered by foul trouble and the pressure of Poly’s defensive stopper, April Cook.
“Their team goes as she goes so I really had to stop her and make sure they wouldn’t hurt us,” Cook said.
In their first meeting back in January, Millikan scored an upset in the first meeting back in January, taking advantage of Poly being tired after playing in three consecutive out-of-state tournaments. The rematch a few weeks later saw Poly win in dominating fashion.
The game was effectively decided in the second quarter when Poly outscored the Rams 17-4. Millikan, making their first appearance in a Southern Section final, struggled to find any rhythm on offense and simply had no answer for Dixon nor junior forward Monique Oliver, who added 12 points and 12 rebounds.
The win was hopefully the first of three anticipated celebrations in the next two weeks as the Lady Jackrabbits will no doubt be the No. 1 seed in the Division I regional bracket and be favored to win their third regional and state championship in the next two weeks.
But at least for tonight, they can celebrate the rare accomplishment of winning three CIF titles, which is something the seniors will look fondly upon.
“Not a lot of people can say they’ve done that in their high school career,” Cook said
Redondo 56, Mira Costa 42 – Senior forward Atonye Nyingifa scored 26 points and 19 rebounds to lead the Lady Sea Hawks (Redondo 27-3) to their second Southern Section Division I-A title in four years.
“I’m just doing whatever my team needs to do,” Nyingifa said, “In playoffs, it’s a whole different level, every team steps up their intensity. “
Just like the Poly-Millikan game earlier in the evening, this was the third meeting between league rivals as Redondo and Mira Costa (Mira Costa 27-5) split their meetings in the Bay League.
The second half was a battle between the UCLA-bound Nyingifa and Mira Costa senior forward Mikah Maly-Karros. Maly-Karros, who will play for LMU next year, finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds but it was tough for the Lady Mustangs to overcome a second quarter where they only scored two points.
Both teams will play in the Division II bracket of next week’s state regionals.