ANAHEIM — The Arroyo Grande High girls basketball team didn’t falter in its biggest game ever.
Actually, the Eagles shut it down.
No. 3 Arroyo Grande handled No. 4 Rio Mesa in a 45-32 win in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AAA championship game Friday night at Anaheim Convention Center, thanks in large part to shutting out the Spartans in the second quarter and holding a double-digit lead the rest of the way.
“Defense is one of the major parts of our game,” Arroyo Grande point guard Alexa Wetmore said. “We make it our tempo by our defense.”
With that kind of effort, the Eagles (25-5) happily celebrated the school’s first girls basketball section title in front of a large group of fans who made the long drive. They were seen jumping and screaming joyously as they headed to the post-game meeting with coach Dwight MacDonald, who said his team “played incredible defense.”
The offense, meanwhile, did just enough.
Forward Lindsey Wolf had nine of her 17 points in the critical second quarter and pulled down six rebounds. Guard Heather Madrigal finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, as she made the most impact at the foul line by going 10 for 10. And point guard Wetmore contributed eight points and five assists.
Brianna Flood led the Eagles’ defense with seven steals.
Arroyo Grande and Rio Mesa had the same amount of field goals (12), but the Eagles separated themselves by making 17 of 21 free throws. The Spartans (25-6) attempted only seven free throws, making just four.
“I’m just really glad that I shot so well, thank God, because I’ve been practicing a lot,” said Madrigal, who had experienced winning a section title before after helping lead St. Joseph to a state championship last season. “My free throw hasn’t been that well, so after practice every day, I stay and shoot until I feel comfortable.”
Arroyo Grande held a 13-11 lead before shutting out the Spartans in the second quarter to own a 25-11 halftime advantage.
Rio Mesa outscored Arroyo Grande 21-20 in the second half, but the Eagles did enough in the first 16 minutes to hold on for the historic win.
The Spartans’ only double-digit scorer was Ashley Ontiveros, who finished with 11 points. Riley Abraham was held to four points — about 10 below her average — to go along with a game-high 17 rebounds.
“I don’t think people realize how long we are,” MacDonald said of the Eagles’ defensive effort. “We don’t look real fast or quick on film and I think it helps that we are long. We have a lot of long arms and we’re fairly quick and it
doesn’t show up on film, so I think teams don’t factor in our length when they prepare for us.”
The Eagles have been dominant in the playoffs, with Friday’s night 13-point win being the smallest margin. Arroyo Grande will move on to the state tournament. But first, the Eagles will cheer on the school’s boys team in today’s Division 3AAA final against Pasadena at 1 p.m. at Anaheim Convention Center.
“We’re going to spend the night celebrating,” Wolf said.