Mission Prep girls basketball coach John Krossa said his team had been working vigorously on a defensive strategy to stop three-time Fresno Valley scoring champion Tabitha Torres in the CIF-Central Section Division IV final.
“Unfortunately, they used an even better defensive strategy on us,” Krossa said.
After falling behind by 10 in the first quarter, Corcoran made major defensively adjustments and went on to beat Mission Prep 54-38 to claim its sixth Division IV title since 2000 on Saturday at Selland Arena in Fresno.
The Royals held Torres, who came into the game averaging more than 21 points per game in the playoffs, to 14 points and 11 rebounds, largely on the defensive effort of Stephanie Darosa.
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“We really keyed on (Torres),” Krossa said. “Darosa has guard quickness but she plays with strength, so we put her to the task of faceguarding (Torres) the whole time. She did a great job there.”
Corcoran (24-5) made adjustments and started looking to other players, as Taylor Carter scored a game-high 15 points and Priscilla Zepeda added 13.
Mission Prep was forced to distribute the ball more evenly as well. Ally Kersthold led three Royals in double figures with 14 points, while Bri Harvey and Jenna Dunbar added 10 apiece.
Kersthold and Corcoran’s Torres were both named to the all-tournament team.
The Panthers double-teamed Dunbar throughout the game, forcing Mission Prep into 29 turnovers. The Royals led 14-4 early, but by halftime trailed by four points.
Mission Prep (14-13) was given the 14th seed at the start of the tournament, and played each game on the road leading up to Saturday’s final in Fresno.
Krossa estimated his team traveled more than 1,200 miles in the process, beating the No. 3, 6 and 2 seeds along the way to the final against the section’s top-seeded team.
“All this travel has got to be some kind of record,” Krossa joked. “Nobody could have ever traveled that far before.”
The Royals became the first 14th seed to reach the section final on either the boys or girls side in any division and by virtue of their finals appearance will likely be a road team when the regional playoffs begin this week.
“I wouldn’t change (the seeding) for anything,” Krossa said. “This journey wouldn’t have been nearly as sweet if we’re not the 14 seed.”