FULLERTON — A quick change in tactics helped the Cabrillo girls basketball team to a 49-39 win over Sunny Hills in the CIF Southern Section 3AA semifinals at Sunny Hills High School Saturday night.
It also earned the second-seeded Conquistadores (26-2) a trip to the divisional final, where they will play Downey-based Warren Saturday, while also winning an automatic berth in the state tournament.
Cabrillo won the Los Padres League championship.
Warren (19-10) was the San Gabriel Valley League runner-up and earned an automatic spot in the state tourney by landing in the divisional final.
Sunny Hills, the third-place team from the Freeway League, is 20-10. The Lancers will wait to see if they earned an at-large bid to the state tourney.
As for Cabrillo's switch in tactics,
"We usually run a 3-2 zone defense, but we saw that (Sunny Hills was) picking up on our match-up zone," said standout Cabrillo senior point guard Erin Jenkins.
"We switched to a man-to-man. We don't typically play man-to-man, but when we did that absolutely killed them."
The Lancers were patient in their half-court offense and they weren't shy about working the ball deep into the shot clock before they got off a shot. However, after some good looks early in the first quarter, the Lancers struggled to get into any sort of rhythm on offense against the Conquistadores' man-to-man defense.
""They were executing really well on offense early," said Cabrillo coach Jared McCune. "They had seen film and had picked up on our 3-2. We were having trouble getting out on their shooters, and we had to switch to a man-to-man. I'm very proud of the girls for the job they did."
Cabrillo often struggled itself on offense against the Lancers, who played a stingy zone defense throughout. However, combined with their tough defense, the Conquistadores did enough on offense to get the win.
Jenkins, Cabrillo's season scoring leader, scored a hard-earned six points in the first half as the Conquistadores edged to a 23-22 halftime lead.
She broke loose for 11 points in the second half, but she did some of her best work on defense as she helped the Conquistadores deny the Lancers from getting many good looks at the basket down the stretch and held her own inside against Sunny Hills center Shenise West who was a force on offensive rebounds for the Lancers.
The Lancers were all but finished when Cabrillo's Morgan McIntyre, with roaring from Sunny Hills spectators raining down on her, made both free throws on a two-shot technical against the Lancers after scoring a disputed basket with 37.4 seconds left to make it 44-37.
"I guess they thought the shot clock had run out," when McIntyre scored, said McCune. "Over all the yelling, I didn't hear a horn or a buzzer go off (signifying a shot-clock violation). I thought the shot was good.
"(Sunny Hills coach Jae Byun) came out on the floor, some enraged Lancers' fans, briefly, came out of the stands and approached the court after the technical foul was called), and I guess (the officials) thought they had to call a technical."
After McIntyre made her two foul shots, Byun slammed his clipboard to the floor before the Conquistadores took the ball out of bounds.
"The front rim," McIntyre answered when she was asked if she was concentrating on any one spot before she shot her big free throws.
"This year has gone pretty well for me on free throws," said the sophomore. "Things didn't go the best for me on free throws last year. Coach talked to me about that."
McIntyre hit eight out of her 11 free throws and finished with 10 points. Amani Childres made two of Cabrillo's three 3-point baskets and also finished with 10 points.
Lauren Scambray helped the Lancers stay in contention. She nailed three 3-point shots and finished with a team-high 14 points. However the Lancers, after draining four 3-point shots in the first half, didn't make any in the second.
West and Jessica Barrow both had 10 points for the Lancers.
With the Conquistadores' offense floundering, Alyssa Stewart nailed a big 3-point shot to boost Cabrillo's lead to 35-29 with .07 seconds left in the third quarter. That was the score going into the fourth.
Alexa McCune made another big play for the Conquistadores. Sunny Hills, down 35-33, had a chance to take the lead when McCune made a steal. She passed the ball to Jesse Jenkins who made a layup to make it 37-33 with 4:24 left, and the Lancers never came any closer.
Time set for Cabrillo's title game
Cabrillo's girls basketball team will face Warren in the CIF Southern Section Division 3AA title game Saturday at 4 p.m.
The game will be played at Colony High School in Ontario.
Colony High School is located at 3850 East Riverside Dr. in Ontario.
General admission tickets are $14 and student tickets are $5 and tickets for those aged 5 to 13 are also $5.