AZUSA — It finally happened for Andrew Butcher and the respected Santa Barbara High girls basketball program he’s coached for more than 30 years.

The Dons won their first CIF championship.

Getting a 38-point performance from super sophomore Amber Melgoza, terrific leadership and decision making from senior point guard Desirea Coleman and solid and steady play from its role players, top-seeded Santa Barbara ran away from Lake Elsinore-Lakeside, 67-43, in the 3AA Division title game at Azusa Pacific’s Felix Events Center on Saturday.

Butcher last took Santa Barbara to the CIF Finals in 1989.

“Every year, the kids want to get (a CIF title banner) up on the wall, and some years we have more of a chance than others,” Butcher said. “To be honest, I didn’t think we had any chance this year. It’s kind of exciting. It’s the players on the court and they did a great job. We hadn’t put four quarters together in weeks, four quarters of good basketball, and we needed it tonight.”

After getting the jitters out in the first quarter, Melgoza and Coleman caught fire in the second quarter, and the Dons took over the game. Down 16-15, Melgoza nailed a three-pointer from deep in the right corner to put the Dons ahead for good. Coleman followed with a trey and Melgoza scored the next six points on a 12-0 run to end the second quarter and put Santa Barbara ahead 27-16.

It was a nightmare finish to the first half for second-seeded Lakeside (23-7). Not only did it go scoreless for the final five minutes, but its top player, Kianna Williams picked up her third foul.

“Before the game there were a couple of things we talked about,” Butcher said. “We had to take way their transition, and we did for the most part. And, we had to get them in foul trouble. If we could do those two things, we thought we could get them in trouble. Jocelin (Petatan) and Lil (Ponce), when 33 was in she really had to work for her shots. She was getting frustrated.”

The Dons (26-5) didn’t lose any momentum after the halftime break. Melgoza stole the ball and scored on a layup right off the bat. Another Lakeside turnover against Santa Barbara’s press resulted in a 3-point play by Melgoza, boosting the lead to 32-20.

“It was mental toughness and everything came together,” Melgoza said of her scoring.

With Kianna Williams on the bench, Lakeside’s Victoria Sosa picked up her team’s scoring slack and kept the Lancers within 11 (40-29) after a three-point play and a bucket after an offensive rebound.

But Lakeside couldn’t stop Melgoza. She went on a seven-point run, starting it with a nice post-up move for a basket and a foul. She converted the free throw. Another basket followed by a steal and layup put the Dons ahead 47-29.

“It changes everything,” Lakeside coach Anthony Williams said about Williams’ foul troubles. “She’s got to know her importance (to the team). She’s got to stay on the floor. It was a six-point game and she picks up foul three and she just can’t do that.”

Sosa made two free throws to end Lakeside’s drought, but the Lancers fouled Jada Howard and she knocked down her two free throws to put the Dons ahead 49-31 going into the fourth quarter.

Sosa scored 17 points and Williams finished with 9 points for lead Lakeside.

Santa Barbara’s energy was still strong in the fourth quarter. Coleman exemplified it early in the fourth quarter, scrambling for a loose ball and then feeding Melgoza for a layup to put the Dons up by 20 points (51-31).

“I thought to myself, ‘We want this and I want it,‘” said Melgoza about doing whatever it took to help her team win. “And the only thing I wanted to do was get the ball in the basket and rebound.”

Williams returned to the court for Lakeside and scored but she later picked up he fifth foul, crashing into a screen set by Kimberly Gebhardt.

With the lead up to 26, the Dons pulled back and worked the clock. On one possession, Melgoza put an exclamation point on her big-time performance. A second before the shot clock expire, she hit a beautiful fall-away jumper. She pumped her first in satisfaction as she ran back on defense.

Melgoza made 16 of 30 from the floor, was 5 of 6 from the free-throw line and grabbed a team-high rebounds.

“She’s hard to match up; she can play inside and out,” coach Williams said of Melgoza. “Her size and she has great athleticism, so we knew that was going to be our challenge. She scored half their points.”

Coleman, too, gave Lakeside trouble. The Lancers couldn’t take the ball away from her and she drew fouls on drives to the basket.

Coleman had an impressive line with 16 points, seven assists, four steals and five rebounds. Gebhardt, the freshman, had seven points and seven rebounds. Sophomore Jada Howard grabbed seven rebounds and junior Jocelin Petatan had four steals.

“The kids played within themselves today,” said Butcher.

On Melgoza’s scoring, he said, “It’s a team effort. The kids, they get her the ball in the right spots. Dessy has a knack of getting her the ball where she’s shooting at a high percentage.”

It all came together, and now the Dons can put that banner on the wall.

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