Of course, it had to be this way.
One of the harder tests of the regular season had to come at the very end for the Arroyo Grande High girls basketball team.
The Eagles didn’t back down against visiting St. Joseph in the PAC 7 finale Friday night, despite the fact that they played without North Dakota-bound forward Emma Weinreich, who sat on the bench with a sprained ankle.
Heather Madrigal’s performance was more than enough to fill the void, as the senior guard scored 33 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out four assists in a 63-53 win against her former team to lead the Eagles to a 12-0 record and the school’s 12th league title.
Madrigal had 16 of her points in the second quarter.
“It means a lot because this league is so darn tough. Every team is good on any night,” Arroyo Grande coach Dwight MacDonald said about his Eagles earning a perfect record. “Anybody can beat anybody. It’s unbelievable to go through the league 12-0, as competitive and balanced as this league is.”
Brianna Flood contributed 15 points on two 3-pointers, Lindsey Wolf scored four points and pulled down 10 rebounds despite playing in foul trouble for most of the night and Maurisa Dominguez filled in with 10 points and eight rebounds.
Weinreich has missed three games after spraining her ankle against San Luis Obispo on Feb. 3. MacDonald said he expects her to return to practice Monday to prepare for the CIF-Southern Section playoffs.
The Eagles (20-5 overall) survived an impressive showing from St. Joseph, which opened this season 2-11 after winning a state title last year. The Knights (9-17, 7-5 PAC 7) had three double-digit scorers in Tatiana Dunlap (17 points), Syenna Ramirez (16 points Kaitlyn Flowers (15 points).
St. Joseph fell behind in the fourth quarter, when Arroyo Grande opened it up with a 10-2 run and 54-43 advantage. The Knights didn’t have their first field goal until about five minutes into that period.
“Typically we play pretty good defense and we kind of turned it up a notch in the fourth quarter,” MacDonald said.
Arroyo Grande had only a 35-33 lead at halftime.
It wasn’t an easy win for the Eagles, who had Dominguez foul out with three other players finishing with four fouls.
Krista St. Denis, who did not score, stepped in after Alexa Wetmore picked up her fourth foul in the first half to help the Eagles’ defensive effort.
“We stayed really composed, we played as a team,” Flood said. “We got back on defense and our intensity was amazing. We were having fun.”