SACRAMENTO – It's been said over and over – defense wins championships.
No matter how good any defense is, though, you still have to put points on the board.
The Sacred Heart Cathedral girls’ basketball team learned that lesson the hard way in the Division III state championship game Friday at Sleep Train Arena.
In a span of 7 minutes against Bishop Alemany of Mission Hills in the second and third quarters, the Irish didn't score a point at it ultimately cost them in a 46-40 loss.
The Irish (25-7) jumped out to a 12-5 lead early, led for all of the first quarter and after a layup from sophomore center Ashanti Coleman, held a 20-16 advantage with 5:08 remaining in the second.
The next time Sacred Heart scored was at the 6:08 mark of the third quarter, when senior guard Briannah Smith hit a runner in the lane.
“It just wasn't going in the basket,” said Sacred Heart coach LyRyan Russell. “There's no excuse. We were getting good shots and attacking the basket well. There was just a lull there.”
The Warriors (32-5) weren't doing much better.
Smith's bucket to end the scoreless streak cut the Alemany lead to 24-22, but the Warriors responded with a 7-0 run to build their largest lead of the game.
Still, Alemany couldn't put the Irish away.
Sacred Heart ended the third quarter on an 8-1 run, tied the game at 32-32 on a fast-break layup from Coleman with 7:13 left in the fourth and took their only lead of the second half 1:46 later on a layup by sophomore guard Kayla Coloyan.
“We've been in these situations before, where we trailed to come back and win,” Russell said. “We tied it up in the fourth quarter. We [kept giving] reminders in timeouts that the game was never out of reach.”
The advantage was short-lived, however, as Alemany outscored the Irish 14-6 in the final 5 minutes.
“My team – we come back and we fight,” said Smith, who finished with seven points and was one of just two seniors on the active roster (two others were out with injuries). “There was no doubt in my mind that we would come back. We just came up short.”
Loyola Marymount-bound senior guard Leslie Lopez-Wood led the Warriors with a game-high 16 points and junior forward Hannah Johnson added 12 points and a team-high 11 rebounds.
“Basketball is 32 minutes – a game of runs,” said Alemany coach Bryan Camacho. “It's just a matter of playing through its course and wait, hopefully for one of our runs.”
Through the offensive struggles, one Irish player stood out and that bodes well for their future.
Coleman, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, scored a team-high 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor to go along with a game-high 12 rebounds. Coleman was the only Sacred Heart player to score in double digits and in every quarter, and the rest of the Irish shot just 24 percent from the floor. She also had a game-high five blocks and was the only Irish player that was on the floor for all 32 minutes.
“That's how she's been all year,” Russell said. “She's been the anchor of our defense – blocking shots, rebounding – and she got the ball today and scored.”