ONTARIO — The top ranked Ganesha Giants girls basketball team lived up to its moniker Saturday afternoon, as they were able to use their size and length to take down Bishop Diego and win the CIF Div. 5A championship by a score of 58-35.
The Giants (24-3) outscored the second-ranked Cardinals (23-9) 42-8 in points in the paint, while their defense forced 18 turnovers and limited Bishop to just 25.5% shooting from the floor. Ganesha was led on offense by standout senior Heavenly Greer and junior Ra’Nell Harrison. The 6-4 Greer had 19 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks, while Harrison scored a game-high 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the game, which was played at Colony High School.
“(Harrison) played more inside and crashed the offensive rebounds more than I thought she would and that hurt us,” Burich said.
Bishop’s Elliot Redkey and Julia De La Cruz said postgame that Ganesha’s size played a big factor in the game. The guards were unable to roam the paint as much as they’re used to, which forced Bishop to look elsewhere for offense.
“I tried to get around a few times and tried to get initial contact, but then I’d get blocked but I just wasn’t getting the calls tonight,” Redkey said.
The Cardinals had a rough start to Saturday’s game, turning the ball over 11 times in the first half, which included three turnovers in the first 2:30 of the game. Bishop shot just 2-for-14 in the first eight minutes, as the Giants built a 14-6 lead and never looked back.
“We were a little nervous,” Burich said. “There were a lot of travel calls and that’s just not being aggressive and ready to attack the basket.
“We weren’t able to attack the spots up top like we usually are. That was the difference in the game.”
Burich said he tried to do his best Norm Dale impression from the blockbuster “Hoosiers,” reminding his girls in the early going that there was plenty of basketball to be played.
The pep talk appeared to pay dividends, as Bishop pulled within five, 16-11, with 5:56 left in the first half following a jumper by Ashyln Oxton-Madrigal. Oxton-Madrigal finished with five points and eight rebounds in her 15 minutes of action and provided a spark off the bench for Bishop.
Harrison’s 3-pointer helped extend the lead and a post jumper by Greer put the Giants ahead 21-11. As the first half came to a close, Greer showed off her athleticism with a coast-to-coast layup to push the lead to 27-13. Lily Simolon knocked down a jumper with 19 seconds left in the half to cut the deficit to 12.
The Cardinals were able to pull within 12 points in the early portion of the third. Redkey’s right wing 3-pointer made it 32-20 with 5:31 left in the period before Ganesha pulled away. With 1:24 left, Greer scored on a pretty left-handed layup on the fast break to give Ganesha a 43-25 lead.
The Giants kept the pedal to the medal in the fourth, opening the quarter with a 10-1 run. They led by as many as 26 points.
“It takes a lot off you when you have a player like that,” Ganesha coach Vincent Spirlin said of Greer. “Heavenly can play the 1 through the 5 for us and I’m sure when she gets to the next level she’ll play the 3, 4 and 5.”
Greer has received interest from Rutgers, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Alabama, though she has yet to make a college choice.
For the game, the Cardinals made just 5-of-23 attempts from behind the arc. Lily Simolon and Mileyni Sanchez each scored six to lead Bishop.
“I think their defense was really good,” De La Cruz said. “I think they anticipated what we were going to do and they knew what we were going to try.
“I mean, they’re faster than us, they’re more athletic than us and they’re lengthier (longer), so it was a little hard to drive and kick it out.”
Burich and the Bishop players brought up some officiating discrepancies postgame, though the Burich reiterated how tough it was to prepare for a team like Ganesha.
“That’s a very good team, let’s not forget that,” he said. “We can complain about calls or whatever and missed shots, but that’s a darn good team. They’re going to beat a lot of teams — they’ve beaten a lot of good teams. I thought these kids played really well, but I want to make sure we acknowledge how good those players are.”
Redkey said that the championship experience Bishop gained Saturday should pay off down the road.
“We’re going to be in the same league next year but for the playoffs, we’re going to move up a few divisions. I don’t know how far we’ll go, depending on what division we’re in, but I think for a team it helped us grow,” she said. “It will help Bishop as a team, too, just to progress and keep getting opportunities later on.”
The Cardinals are expected to find out their fate in the State championships today. Bishop qualified for sectionals after reaching the title game.