TOC: Sierra Canyon repeats as Gold Division champion

Top-seeded and defending champion Sierra Canyon lived up to its top billing in the Gold Division of the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions, romping to 56-34 girls basketball victory over Ventura in the title game Tuesday night at J.R. Richards.

Just as they did to their three other opponents, the 1-2 punch of UCLA-bound Kennedy Burke and Loyola Marymount signee Cheyanne Wallace dominated in the final. Burke, named the Gold Division’s MVP, scored 20 points, while Wallace tallied 16.

In a high-energy Green Division final, top-seeded Fairmont Prep of Anaheim pulled away from Poway down the stretch to score a 54-48 win. The Huskies scored 10 unanswered points to rally from a 48-44 deficit in the last four minutes.

Ventura had the size to match Sierra Canyon’s senior stars, but Burke and Wallace were just too athletic and experienced. And, their teammates did a nice job of getting them the ball in open space.

Wallace drove around a defender and scored to open up a 10-4 lead in the first quarter. Then Burke blocked a shot, was fouled on an offensive rebound and made two free throws. Wallace finished the period with a 3-pointer to put the Trailblazers ahead 15-6.

The lead expanded to 22-8 after a put-back and 3-pointer by Burke and a drive by Wallace.

Then coach Sierra Canyon Alicia Komaki lowered the boom. After Ventura missed a free throw, she yelled at her team for not going hard on the rebound. Komaki called a timeout and let her players — and everyone in the gym — know that she was not happy with their effort.

The coach’s outburst got the players’ attention and they raised their defensive intensity. Wallace stole the ball and scored and the Trailblazers forced a shot-clock violation on Ventura’s next possession.

The Cougars stepped up their play, too. They moved the ball better and finished the first half with a nice sequence that ended with a basket by Emily Herring. That left them down by 13, 26-13.

Ventura came out strong in the third quarter, scoring seven straight points. The Cougars started to pick up some momentum before Burke took over. She made a tough shot inside and was fouled and completed the three-point play. Then she blocked a shot at the free-throw, dived after the loose ball and poked it ahead to Ryann Payne who took it in for a layup. Sierra Canyon led 39-26 at the end of three quarters.

The Trailblazers went on an 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter to essentially put the game away.

There was a scary moment during the run as Burke fell on top of talented Ventura sophomore Aubrey Knight who received the ball in the paint on inbound play. Knight was shaken up and left the game. An ice bag was wrapped around her right shoulder.

Ventura was led in scoring by Rangel with seven points, while Knight and Riley Mew had six apiece. Rangel and Kyleesha Green of the Cougars were named to the all-tournament team.

In other action, Amber Melgoza scored 39 points for Santa Barbara High, which led Vista Murrieta by five in the fourth quarter. The Broncos utilized their size advantage and upended the Dons 61-59 in the seventh-place game in the Gold Division. Melgoza was named to the all-tournament team.

Bishop Diego defeated Santa Ynez, 42-34, for 11th place in the Green Division. Jordyn Lilly scored 14 points, eight from the free-throw line, grabbed 14 rebounds and had three steals to lead the Cardinals (7-3). Hannah Rogers had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Morgan Wallace scored seven points and grabbed five boards.

Down the stretch, Wallace scored on an offensive rebound and Sienna Gonzalez had a put-back basket to seal the win.