John Krossa thought his Mission Prep girls basketball team was seeded too low when it earned the 14th seed heading into this year’s CIF-Central Section Division IV playoffs.
The Royals are vindicating their coach’s belief round-by-round.
Mission Prep continued its underdog run Wednesday night, rallying late in the fourth quarter and taking its first lead in the closing minutes to knock off the division’s No. 2 seed, San Joaquin Memorial, 50-43 in Fresno in a semifinal game.
“Our girls just stuck with it,” Krossa said. “I said we should’ve been a 3 seed, because we played an amazingly tough schedule (that was reflected in their regular-season record). I think the seeding committee said, ‘OK, prove it.’”
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All three of the Royals’ wins have come on the road. They won 43-39 over No. 3 seed Strathmore in the opening round and 54-39 over No. 6 seed Lindsay in the quarterfinals.
“It’s been a long haul with a lot of driving, but we’re right where we wanted to be,” Krossa said.
Mission Prep (14-12) advanced to face Corcoran (23-5), the No. 1 seed and the ninth-ranked team in all of the Central Section, in the championship game at 10 a.m. Saturday at Selland Arena in Fresno.
Corcoran beat No. 4 seed Sierra 51-39 in the other semifinal Wednesday.
Mission Prep will be playing in a sectional divisional title contest for the 17th time in 18 years. It had won 12 straight Central Section Division V banners until last season, the Royals’ first in Division IV.
On Wednesday, Ally Kersthold led the Royals with a game-high 16 points, while sophomore point guard Jenna Dunbar added 14. Bri Harvey pulled down a team-high eight rebounds in the win.
Kersthold, a four-year varsity player and the Royals’ third-leading scorer on the season, has led Mission Prep in scoring in all three of its postseason games. The senior guard’s recent tear has been all the more noteworthy considering she opened the year recovering from a broken leg suffered last season.
The Royals, who won the fourth quarter 20-5, were 20 of 31 at the free-throw line, compared to the Panthers’ 8-of-25 shooting.
Toni Anaya and Mahogany May each had a team-high 11 points for San Joaquin Memorial (28-8), which entered ranked No. 17 in the section but cooled off after hitting five 3-pointers before the break.
“I told the girls at halftime that there was no way they could shoot that well in the second half,” Krossa said. “We just kept attacking and got to the free-throw line.”
The Mission Prep boys will also be playing in a championship game later this week, taking on Central Valley Christian in the Division V final at 4 p.m. Friday, also at Selland Arena.
Nipomo 457, Santa Ynez 492
Rory Doll earned medalist honors for the Titans (2-0) with an even-par 72 in heavy rain at Cypress Ridge Golf Course in Arroyo Grande.
“He hit fairways, he hit greens — it was unbelievable,” Nipomo coach Paul Springer said of Doll’s performance given the conditions. “Half the time we couldn’t even see the ball (in flight).”
Doll, a 6-foot-5 senior, also had the top score in Nipomo’s season opener Monday, carding a 73 on the same course.
Arroyo Grande at St. Joseph rained out
The Eagles’ match at Santa Maria County Club was rained out, and a makeup date has yet to be determined, Arroyo Grande coach Jeff Byars said.
SWIMMING AND DIVING
Boys: San Luis Obispo 240, Morro Bay 57; Girls: San Luis Obispo 211, Morro Bay 90
The Tigers dominated at home.
Among the standouts for San Luis Obispo’s boys were Ethan Merritt, who won the diving competition with a commanding 281.47 points, and Eric Erbstoesser, who took the 200-yard freestyle in 1 minute, 57.47 seconds.
Trent Popovich paced the Morro Bay boys by claiming the 50 freestyle in 23.64 seconds and the 100 butterfly in 56.81. Laura Clark won the girls 200 freestyle for the Pirates in 2:00.95, and the 500 freestyle in 5:21.9.
Arroyo Grande rained out
For the second straight day, Arroyo Grande’s home nonleague match with Santa Ynez was rained out.