There have not been too many times this season that the Cate girls basketball team has faced adversity as it did in its second round CIF-SS Div. 4A playoff game at Capistrano Valley.
The Rams fell behind by as many as eight points early Saturday but overcame that and a hostile crowd to defeat the Cougars 41-38 and advance to the quarterfinals of the Div. 4A bracket.
“This was a miracle of a win tonight, this was the toughest environment we ever played in and I am so proud of my girls,” Cate coach Laura Moore said.
“I can’t overstate how tough this game was and how tough that crowd was. There are not too many places where there are two full student section rows for a girls game and they were cheering the entire time. I am just proud of the senior leadership I have.”
The Rams scored just 15 points in the first half, the lowest total it had been held to in the first 16 minutes all season.
Meena Baher had eight of those points while Maya Blattberg had the other seven.
“We haven’t had many close games this year, I think the last close one we had was against Dos Pueblos in December,” Moore said.
“Our senior leadership stepped up, however, especially in times when the crowd was loud and stayed composed.”
Cate was struggling to stop Capistrano Valley’s Leah Manning but had more success after they began to run a box-and-one defense out of the break. Manning, who then had to use multiple screens to get open, was rendered useless as they sent a trap on those screens to force her to pass.
The Rams were trailing 28-25 heading into the third but flipped the game around with some big baskets to lead 37-35 with 1:09 remaining. Clutch free throws from Lily Zanze and Blattberg down the stretch put Cate ahead 41-38 with just under 10 seconds remaining.
Blattberg blocked the Capistrano Valley’s game-tying shot to seal the win.
Baher scored a team-high 17 points for the Rams while Blattberg added 13.
“I have a really great team behind me and we have a great inside-outside game, so it’s hard to focus on one player so when they focus on me I pass it down low,” Baher told the News-Press.
Baher, who is the team’s leading scorer, is excited to not only be going to the quarterfinals but also that Cate will host Marshall High on Wednesday with a time to be determined.
“It’s so exciting, I have never been before to the quarterfinals in basketball for high school and I am so excited to be there with our crowd and being back with our familiar faces after such a tough environment today,” Baher said.
“(Making a championship run) depends on injury and health but I think that we can really go all the way. We have all the momentum with us right now.”