Two years ago, the San Luis Obispo High girls basketball team won just one game.
This year, they won 18 and made a deep postseason run that ended Saturday night at home in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3A semifinals.
The Tigers lost 64-40 to Chaminade, the top-ranked team in the division and the 20th-ranked team in the state, according to maxpreps.com.
San Luis Obispo (18-11) was led by junior guard Jessica Judge, who had 13 points, and senior Christine Freberg, who scored 11 points.
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Freberg played on the 1-23 Tigers team from two years ago, and said that this season was especially fun because she felt like it was the first time since she’s been on the team where “everyone really got into it.”
“We put in a lot of hard work,” Freberg said. “We never stopped working … After the game, the coaches told us how proud they were of us and how far we got. We never gave up.”
The never-say-die attitude the Tigers embraced this season was evident Saturday against the Eagles (26-3), who seized a 20-4 lead after the first quarter.
The Tigers were outmatched in nearly every area of the game as Chaminade displayed a range of scoring options, including accurate outside shooting. And their quickness on defense made it difficult for San Luis Obispo to get into any rhythm.
In the first few minutes, Tigers coach Dan Monroe screamed at his players to move and in the second quarter they began to develop more offensive flow and scored 12 in the quarter.
But the Eagles were led by UC Santa Barbara-bound power forward Mi’Chael Wright, who not only dominated the paint but displayed skillful dribbling and finished breaks in the open court. She had 14 points.
Cassie MacLeod also had 14 for Chaminade. The 6-foot guard has attracted college programs as well, including Cal Poly, according to her coaches.
After scoring 18 against South Pasadena on Wednesday, Tigers senior forward Erica Chandler was held scoreless against a tough defensive attack that swarmed her. Chandler averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on the season.
The aggressive ball pressure led to 23 fouls committed by Chaminade, but the team from West Hills had a deep bench and was able to substitute talented backups for starters such as Wright, who fouled out.
Monroe said that the Tigers’ turnaround — they were 9-16 last year — is a testament to how much his players wanted to succeed this year and how each one fit into their roles on the team.
“There wasn’t a lot of me, me, me on this team,” Monroe said. “From the starters to the bench players and coaches, everyone was willing to take on their role willingly.”
Monroe acknowledged that his players were dealing with nerves to start the game and they came out with more feistiness in the second quarter and second half after settling down a bit.
The team’s identity was centered on its defense, holding teams to 36 points per game on average this season.
But digging out of such a deep hole early proved too much to overcome Saturday.
Fittingly with the team’s no-quit style, Morgan Liebscher, who scored seven points, nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the game.
Freberg said that in addition to the joy of winning, it was also nice to get to play three playoff games this year at home.
“It was good that our family and friends got to see us play here,” Freberg said. “We gave it our best.”
Monroe, a second-year coach, said that he’ll miss the seniors he worked together with so closely over the past two years.
“They’re a great group,” Monroe said. “I think their work ethic and attitude will make them successful off the court later in life.”