STORY BY MATT SIMON
The Long Beach Wilson girls basketball team had one mission throughout the playoffs: rewrite history.
The Bruins did exactly that Saturday afternoon when they defeated Eisenhower 66-62 in overtime to claim the CIF-SS Division 3A championship at Godinez Fundamental High School.
The championship marks the first time the Bruins girls basketball team has won a CIF title since 2000.
With a chip on their shoulder the Bruins worked their way through the playoffs to set up a championship match-up against the No. 2-ranked Eagles.
“It was a ballgame,” Wilson coach Erin Carey said. “It was what we expected it to be and it was what you want a championship game to be. It was loud, it’s close, the kids were playing their hearts out, playing through injuries, diving on loose balls. It was what I expected and so was the outcome.”
In the first quarter, Eisenhower gave the Bruins everything they could handle as the Eagles jumped out to a 6-0 lead after back-to-back threes from Briana Lizardi and Natalie Vasquez. Wilson trailed 16-8 after the first quarter.
With her team needing a lift offensively, senior Samiya Terry came alive as she scored 10 points in the first half and was 5-for-10 from the field as the Bruins trailed Eisenhower 24-23 at halftime.
“I’m not leaving here without my CIF Southern Section Division 3A ring,” Terry said about giving her team a much-needed lift. “That was what was going through my head, I’m getting that ring and we got off to a slow start and I knew my team needed me, especially with my block at the end. We needed that.”
The senior finished with a game-high 24 points and seven rebounds and did what she needed to do to slow down Sa’lah Hemingway, Eisenhower’s star freshman. Along with Terry, Jasmine Stone did what she could to limit Hemingway’s production as she tallied a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
“Our girls put up a heck of a fight today,” Eisenhower coach Antonio Quintero said. “Game was in the balance for quite a while. They made some runs. We made some runs early. They just made a few more runs than us in the long run.”
Hemingway finished the game with 13 points and 17 rebounds, but Wilson was able to overcome Eisenhower’s rebound advantage by limiting the Eagles to only 14 second-chance points.
“I just felt like once we do what we need to do, get the rebounds, score, push the ball; after that we’d win and be champions,” Stone said. “And we did.”
With Eisenhower keying in on guard Ashley Hawkins, the Bruins turned it on defensively as they forced the Eagles into 16 turnovers in the second half and overtime.
“No matter what when we have a game plan, we always stick to it,” Wilson sophomore Sydney Ross said. “When we stick to it, we always when games like this. It was a close game, they had momentum the whole entire game until we had a defensive shift.”
Hawkins finished the game with 14 points while shooting 4-for-14 from the field.
“Yes, it was,” Hawkins said about it being a sigh of relief when the clock reach zero. “We played really well together, and we did what we needed to do and once that buzzer went off it was like oh my god we’re champions.”
Along with mounting the comeback, the Bruins claimed their spot in Wilson and Long Beach history.
“I had my Wilson shirt on last night. The city is excited,” Carey said. “There’s some excitement about the kids that live in Naples Island and the kids that are bussing in from the Cabrillo area that picked to go to Wilson, not because their a championship school but because they have what they want academically and can compete in sports as well.”
The Bruins will now wait to find out who they face in CIF State playoffs next week.