ONTARIO Jenna Dunbar was a fan in the stands the last time the Mission Prep girls basketball team played in the state final. That got her thinking about returning to the title game one day as a player.
Four years later, Mission Prep is headed back to the state final thanks in large part to Dunbar and her fellow seniors.
Dunbar scored a team-high 21 points with seven assists to lead the top-seeded Royals to a 62-41 victory over third-seeded Rolling Hills Prep in Saturdays CIF Southern California Regional Division 5 championship at Colony High.
Seniors Kaylee Williams and Bri Harvey added 16 and 13 points respectively.
It means so much, Dunbar said. I dont even know if words can describe it. The last two weeks Ive been talking about winning CIF and now were going to state. Its surreal. It feels great. Its the greatest feeling of my life.
Dunbar and the rest of the Royals could be feeling even better next weekend when Mission Prep (32-1) travels to Sacramento aiming for its first state championship in the programs seventh trip to the finals. The Royals have won their past 29 games, including the past 13 in a row by double figures.
Theyve dreamed about this, Mission Prep coach John Krossa said. A lot of them went and cheered us on at the last one. Jenna and Bri were there in the stands. Theyve dreamed of going back ever since then. Now to go and play, its real special.
The Royals secured their trip to Sacramento with a dominant third quarter in which they outscored Rolling Hills Prep 19-8 to open a 17-point advantage by the end of the period.
Huskies forward Mar-Jana Phillips, who scored 15 points in the first half and finished with a game-high 25 points and 12 rebounds, was held to four points in the third quarter.
She was killing us, Krossa said of Phillips. At halftime we really talked about how we had to get her off the boards she was destroying us on the boardsand stop her layups. She was getting too many easy points.
Phillips scored all but two of Rolling Hills Preps 13 points in the first quarter and helped keep the game close through the first half. Her putback a little less than two minutes into the second quarter provided a 19-18 Huskies lead before Mission Prep went on a 9-2 run to take the lead for good.
Dunbar closed the half with her third 3-pointer for a 30-24 halftime advantage.
Dunbar had been key in taking an early lead as she scored 10 points in the first quarter.
She really shows up for big games, Krossa said. She didnt have her best game at the CIF final. Shed been sick and only had one day of practice. But shes back now. Her coming up big in a game like this isnt a surprise at all.
The beginning of games she steps up big. Shes hungry to get going.
The Royals proved they had plenty of other threats in the second half. Mission Preps lead reached double figures by the middle of the third quarter and grew to as much as 22 by late in the fourth quarter.
Once we got everyone scoring, I honestly dont think they knew what to do, Dunbar said. You cant guard all five players.
Mission Prep was effective in shutting down the player anticipated to be its biggest challenge, Huskies sophomore guard Peyton Langston. Langston was limited to four points, all in the third quarter. Phillips was the only player to score in double figures for a Rolling Hills Prep (21-5) lineup that started three sophomores and no seniors.
We had our shot, Huskies coach Joe Jackson Jr. said. It just came down to a point where experience won out. Theyre not only a very talented team, but a very experienced team. They got us into things we didnt want to do. Every adjustment we made, they made us pay. ... Hats off to them, they did what they had to. Theyre a good team.