Orangewood cools down Providence Hall for CIF title

Providence Hall during pre-game introductions. The Lions were competing in their first CIF Championship game in school history. (Presidio Sports Photo)

SANTA ANA – A last-ditch effort by Providence Hall was turned away by Orangewood Academy on Saturday, resulting in a 34-31 triumph for the Spartans in the Southern Section’s Division 6 CIF girls basketball championship game played at Mater Dei High School.

The Spartans took a 28-21 lead in the fourth quarter only to have the Lions rush back to tie 31-31 on a 3-pointer by Faith Emerson.

Providence Hall would not score again, and three free throws converted by Orangewood in the final two minutes – the last two by Jareni Nunez with 2.3 seconds left – proved the difference down the stretch.

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“We came out less intense than the other team; they wanted it,” said Spartans captain Raquel Spencer. “But we wanted it more at the end. We needed it; we craved it.”

Spencer led all scorers with 14 points.

The Lions got most of their offensive output from the trio of Sydney Hedges, with 8, and Lacey Gonzalez and Faith Emerson, who both collected 7 points.

Gonzalez preceded Emerson with her own three-pointer in the fourth quarter that helped put Providence Hall in a position to win. Hedges sparked the comeback by scoring the first four points by the Lions in the final frame.

“I’m really thankful that I have a team full of people with a ton of heart,” said Lions senior captain Faith Emerson.

But for the most part, the Spartans were able to stifle Providence Halls’ offense that scored 70 points in the semifinal game.

“We didn’t get the usual looks that we normally get,” said Lions head coach Ariana Gnekow, crediting Spencer’s defensive presence in the post.

The Spartans, from nearby Garden Grove, were spurred on by a large crowd all wearing black.

“They kept us going. They kept believing, we kept believing,” Spencer said.

“Everyone gets nervous,” Emerson said. “A lot of the girls hadn’t played in a gym this big.”

It was a close game through the first three quarters with the Spartans holding a 18-17 lead at halftime.

Olivia Johnson scored five points to lead the Lions in the first half, including four points in a 8-0 run in the first quarter that gave Providence Hall an early 10-6 lead. Elizabeth Beebe tallied four points and six rebounds by half.

The Lions (18-7) have more games to play in the State Tournament that begins on Wednesday.

“We’re excited to have another game. We’re going to bring that intensity a lot more next time,” Hedges said.

The Lions learn their opponent and venue on Sunday.

BOX SCORE

OA SCORERS – Spencer 14, Nunez 4, J. Olvera 8, S. Olvera 6, Rivero 2.

PH Scorers – Emerson 7, Cooper 5, Beebe 4, Gonzalez 7, Hedges 8.

Orangewood 10 8 6 10 – 34
Providence Hall 10 7 4 10 – 31