We may never see a girl's high school basketball team as good or as dominant again, as the St. Mary's Knight's girl's basketball program. In fact, I am saying never again. If we thought the last two year's of St. Mary's girl's basketball was dominant, this year's team has been more of the same for a Knight's basketball program that has completely dominated the state of Arizona's best.
St. Mary's (25-1) came into Saturday night's Division-I, Section-I championship game at Westview High School as winners of their last 55 games against Arizona competition. Saturday evening's match-up with previous undefeated Westview High School (32-1) would be the Knight's next test on the season. While playing the game on Westview's home floor and for the championship of the division's sectional tournament, the Knights would look to make another statement.
Westview has been excellent this high school season, behind the strong leadership of head coach Lisa Contreras and her basketball staff. The team's pressing and fast-paced style of play on both ends of the floor is very difficult for team's to match-up with - forcing loads of turnovers for their opposition and creating many problems for teams.
Westview has absolutely blown past their competition this season, and I mean blown past - winning by an average margin of 41.7 points per/game. Westview has dominated the state even more than St. Mary's has this season. Only two high school's this season have even come within 10 points of Westview - Millennium and Valley Vista High School.
Coming into Saturday evening's contest, something would have to give as these two dominant team's matched up. Unfortunately for Westview, their pressing playing style would be no match for a loaded team of division-I prospects. St. Mary's would enter the contest sporting a starting line-up of five different high-major division-I talents. Even the Knights' "sixth-man," 5-foot-11 senior forward Brandee Walton, is a signee with New Mexico State.
With such a loaded team of unselfish performers, the night would belong to UCONN commit, 6-foot-1 junior guard/forward Courtney Ekmark. Ekmark would explode in the game - scoring an impressive 24 first-half points after making (5) three-pointers in the game's first half. Ekmark's dominant first half performance would thrust the Knights to a big 37-23 halftime lead.
While host Westview would go into halftime very flustered, and would come back ready to turn things around in the second half, the Knights would put their foots on the gas pedal in the second half - not letting up one bit.
Immediately to start the second half, the Knights would go inside to 6-foot-2 senior post Chantel Osahor (Univ. of Washington signee) for a nice post move over a defender. St. Mary's would then push the score to 41-23 before a transition basket by talented 5-foot-10 sophomore forward Saylair Grandon would make the score 41-25.
The two teams would compete hard for the majority of the third period, until a three-pointer from Ekmark from the wing would give St. Mary's a 51-31 lead with :37 seconds left to play in the third period.
St. Mary's would take a 52-32 lead after three quarters of action.
Ekmark would pick up things where she left off in the fourth period, as she would quickly go backdoor on an inbounds play where Osahor would find her for a layup.
But Westview would keep fighting as 5-foot-5 junior guard Airianna Sesma would convert a three-pointer in transition - making the score 54-35.
St. Mary's would keep their foot on the gas though, as senior guard/forward Chloe Johnson (San Diego State signee) would knock down a three-pointer in transition to make the score 57-35. Then Ekmark would score another basket in transition and Johnson would make a nice driving layup around a defender in the Knights' secondary break to give St. Mary's a big 61-35 lead.
After a timeout called by Westview, the Knights would close out the big championship victory 71-43 - a 28-point margin of one of the state's elite teams. Both teams would leave their starters on the floor for the entire game.
Courtney Ekmark would finish the game with a game-high of 39 points, while Chantel Osahor would finish with 13 points in the victory.
While the Knights will now advance to the state playoffs next week, and should have no problems winning their third-consecutive state championship this season, Westview will look to be a favorite to win it all next season, as they will return a young team next season that will lose only two players to graduation.
St. Mary's now advances to the state playoffs as winner of their last 56 games against Arizona high school competition.