Offense had been the Bishop Diego High girls basketball team strength for the majority of its postseason run this season.
In their two games in the CIF-SS Div. 5A bracket, the Cardinals averaged 62.5 points per contest.
On Wednesday, however, Bishop struggled to put the ball through the hoop at Woodcrest Christian in its quarterfinal match against the Royals. Through three quarters, the Cardinals had scored just 17 points and trailed by 10 heading into the final period.
Somehow, Bishop Diego overcame its shooting woes and erased the double-digit deficit to defeat Woodcrest Christian, 39-34, and advance to the CIF-SS Div. 5A semifinals, which will be played at Bishop’s Brick House on Saturday against Calvary Chapel of Santa Ana.
The time is still to be determined.
“They were resilient, they didn’t give up. This win just shows that, for these kids, no deficit is too large and they are capable of stepping up and getting it done,” Bishop Diego coach Jeff Burich told the News-Press via phone call.
The Cardinals trailed 17-8 at halftime, prompting Burich to focus on just getting stops to get back into the ball game.
Despite the message, Bishop still got outscored in the third, 10-9 and was down 27-17 heading into the final eight minutes.
“There was a little bit of bickering going on between the kids and I thought ‘oh no, I am not sure this is a good setting,’ but they calmed down, and said ‘we need to rotate better and focus on our defense,’” Burich said.
The Cardinals switched to man-to-man defense in the fourth quarter and it paid off, as Siena Urzua, a freshman who just joined the team from soccer a few weeks ago, was put on Woodcrest Christian’s best offensive weapon, Kaylani Lawerence.
The freshman forced Lawerence into mistakes and eventually forced her to foul out of the game with just over four minutes remaining.
“She played great and you could visibly see the frustration she was causing her. It helped us a lot,” Burich said.
That, combined with the fact that Woodcrest Christian saw another one of its post players go down to injury in the third, opened up the lane for Bishop Diego.
“We were still down five or six at that point, but it gave the kids confidence to attack the basket and get to the free-throw line,” Burich said.
The Cardinals were 12-for-16 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter, allowing the team to get back into the contest.
Julia De La Cruz, who scored a team-high 18 points, with 12 coming in the second half, iced the game with a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left to give her team a 39-34 lead.
“This is really big, especially watching the boys win on Tuesday. I think the kids probably felt a little pressure to try and do the same thing that the boys did, so I’m really happy for these girls,” Burich said.
The fact that the Cardinals will also be playing at home Saturday has the team excited. The last time Bishop made a CIF title game was in 2015, which saw the Cardinals do win the whole thing.
“Tuesday, when the kids realized if we won we would be playing at home, that was all they could talk about especially after we won. Getting that home game and crowd, I think we will be ready to go and they are looking forward to it,” Burich said.