KEZAR PAVILION — Last season, the Lowell Cardinals girls’ basketball team lost in the San Francisco Section title game at Kezar Pavilion against rival Lincoln. They didn’t just lose; they lost badly — 41-25 — as the Mustangs won their third straight section title.
On Friday, the Cardinals got their chance at payback, and they didn’t waste it. The matchup between the two teams was back and forth all game long, with neither team able to gain much separation during the first half. Lincoln was able to use its superior length to disrupt shots, while Lowell swarmed the ball on defense with their aggressive full court press.
Then, Cardinals senior guard Katelyn “KD” Lee — a versatile scorer — scored 13 of her 24 points after halftime, including nine in the fourth quarter, fueling a 49-43 revenge win that netted Lowell its first City championship since 2015.
“She was just clutch,” Lowell head coach Matthew Magsanay said.
Lee’s play was instrumental, especially during the game’s final moments. Trailing 37-36 with a little over six minutes left in the fourth, Lee got the ball outside the arc and attempted a three but was fouled hard, sending her to the line. She made 2-of-3 free throws to put her team up 38-37.
Lee, though, wasn’t finished. After the the foul shots, Lincoln attempted to in-bound the ball but Lee positioned herself perfectly and came up with the steal, taking the ball all the way for the score to give Lowell a 40-37 lead.
“She put in so much work all season long, so to see her step up and make those free throws was fantastic,” Magsanay said.
The Cardinals’ press caused problems for the Mustangs, but Lincoln quickly countered with its own press, slowing down the offensive pace for both teams. By the end of the first quarter Lincoln was up 15-14, and the second quarter would prove to be just as slow offensively as the first for both teams.
“We go full court press, that is how we roll,” Magsanay said. “We are going to play a strong quick game, and if you are going to beat us, you are going to beat us at our own game, and tonight our defensive pressure and hustle were great. From the very beginning, from the warm up, they had a lot of energy. They were diving on the floor, they were getting balls.”
Junior forward Angelina Jimenez led the way for the Mustangs on offense, scoring nine of her team-high 12 points during the first half thanks to her ability to drive hard to the hoop, and her vicious crossover.
“She is by far our best all around player,” Lincoln head coach Jason Lee said. “Unfortunately, not to make excuses, she has been hurting a lot and she couldn’t make as much movement as she wanted.”
On defense, Lincoln center Lily Donovan owned the boards, pulling down a game-high 20. Donovan towered over the competition, and made scoring in the paint for very difficult for Lowell, and because of her defense, the Mustangs were able to hold on to a 26-24 halftime lead.
Donovan, though, struggled on offense, with the the Cardinals rallying to her her whenever she got the ball in the high post.
Lincoln (17-14) continued to hold their lead for most of the third quarter, but Lowell crept closer. In the middle of the fourth quarter, Donovan fouled out.
“Our mantra is always the next play, we are a kind of grind it out team” Magsanay said. “Over the course of a season it is a long process but it showed during the second half of this game where our team was really willing to grind it out.”
Lee’s offense pulled the Cardinals (17-8) ahead, and though the Mustangs threatened a comeback, it was Lee’s big play down the stretch that proved insurmountable.
Both teams qualified for the state playoffs, so neither team’s season is over yet. Lowell has a senior heavy squad that would like to win a state championship now while Lincoln was a much younger team that will return most of its talent.
“We will enjoy this,” Magsanay said. “But then we are going to get back in the gym and work because we got states.”