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Top ranked Gahr shocked by Chargers in title game

CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION III-AAA GIRLS BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP

 By Loren Kopff

ANAHEIM-This past Wednesday afternoon’s California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division III-AAA championship game was decided within the first minutes of the contest. Unfortunately for Gahr, it was unable to get into a groove and was hit with too much high voltage from Agoura’s Kim Jacobs.

The leading scorer for the Chargers torched the Lady Gladiators for 30 points and sank half a dozen three-pointers as Agoura crushed the division’s top ranked team 60-39 at the Anaheim Convention Center. Gahr was looking for its fourth girls basketball championship while the Chargers won their first.

“We started off real slow,” said Gahr head coach Al Dorogusker. “Our defense was really, really soft in those first five minutes and that certainly gave their shooters confidence. They’re a terrific team. They beat the number one, two and three teams in this tournament. That’s pretty darn good.”

With the Chargers holding a slim 5-2 lead nearly two and a half minutes into the game, they reeled off 13 straight points with Jacobs and Brittany Mazal each scoring four during the stretch. Agoura’s stifling defense held Gahr (22-9) to only six shots in the opening quarter and forced the Lady Gladiators to turn the ball over seven times in the stanza with the Chargers scoring each time.

Gahr tried to make a dent into its big deficit late in the second quarter and trailed 28-13 after an offensive rebound and basket from senior guard Jewelyn Sawyer. Her two free throws with 21.5 seconds left in the half made it a 30-17 affair but Gahr would not get closer the rest of the way.

“In the second quarter I thought we played really good defense,” Dorogusker said. “They ended up with 11 points in that quarter and they scored four of them in the last couple of seconds on a couple of loose balls that bounced around. I thought our defense was really coming on. I really had high hopes for the third quarter.”

“Our defense has been so exceptional over the last two weeks of this tournament,” said Agoura first-year head coach Conley Oliver. “I knew if we would play like that one more time, we definitely would have a chance at the championship.

When halftime approached, the Lady Gladiators were shooting less than 23 percent from the field while the Chargers were nearing 38 percent from the field. In addition, Gahr made only one of 18 three-point shots on the game. But it wasn’t just the shooting that hampered Gahr throughout the contest. Agoura dominated the glass to the tune of 45 rebounds in the game, 23 coming on the offensive side while Gahr had 29 rebounds.

“We didn’t attack the basket,” Sawyer said. “We shot a lot of shots; a lot of air balls. I think we weren’t aggressive.”

“We never got our shooters going,” Dorogusker said. “It was very, very difficult for us to make our open shots and that put no pressure on [Agoura] at all.”

The Chargers and Jacobs continued to put more pressure on in the second half. Jacobs added half of her teams’ 18 points in the third quarter and scored another six on back to back three-pointers in the fourth quarter. In contrast, Gahr never scored consecutive baskets in the game. Jacobs was 12 of 29 from the field while the rest of the Chargers combined for the other 13 field goals.

“She’s a terrific shooter but those girls at North Torrance shot just as well,” Dorogusker said. “She’s a good shooter but she’s not the only one around. I thought they hurt us more on the boards than with their shooting.”

“When I saw Kim hit her first shot, I started looking at [my team] and they looked liked they didn’t care,” Oliver said. “It was really easy from then on to just know, if we focused on defense and ran our stuff, then we could get it done.”

While Gahr, the second place representatives from the San Gabriel Valley League played three straight road games prior to the title game, winning by three points in two of those games, the 15th seeded Chargers edged second seeded Sonora 42-40 at home and knocked off third seeded El Dorado 41-36 on the road in the semifinals. This was Agoura’s second trip to the finals, having lost to Inglewood 64-49 three years ago.

“I ranked teams for the last five or six years,” Dorogusker said. “This year I wasn’t on a ranking committee and Agoura has always been among the top two teams. Why they were ranked 15th I have no idea. But that’s absolute nonsense.”

Sawyer led Gahr with 23 points, including nine of 11 shooting from the free throw line. The future Long Beach State University standout, also grabbed nine rebounds, had her teams’ only three assists and blocked three shots. Senior forward Jasmine Gates added six points and four rebounds.

“I got this tape on Sunday and I was like, ‘that girl is good’,” Oliver said of Sawyer. “I started trying to break down how we were going to stop a six-foot guard that can handle the ball, shoot a little bit and pass the ball well. Coming into this game, we told everybody if we can just contain her…that game plan worked.”

Gahr will now wait for Sunday evening when the brackets to the state playoffs are released. The state playoffs begin on Wednesday.