Memorial High girls basketball, once a legendary program in California, is back on top of the Central Section.
The Panthers made it there Friday afternoon with a 59-45 win over Bakersfield Christian in the Division V final at Selland Arena.
It was the fruits of a lesson learned as the Panthers returned to the floor where one year ago they suffered the heartbreak of finishing runner-up to Caruthers.
Center Lucy Parks scored 20 points, including eight in the second quarter, to lead the Panthers (23-8). Point guard Jada Shakoor had 17 including four 3-pointers.
It was going so fast, my heart was beating, and all of a sudden all the training we did all year came back to me and I remembered it all. This was our game.
Lucy Parks, Memorial center
“It’s haunted me until March 3, today, and being here looks so much different,” Shakoor said. “Last year, it looked bigger. This year, we knew we got this. This was our home and our floor and we won it.”
Trailing 17-15 in the second quarter, Memorial snatched the lead for good on a 7-0 run sparked by a Shakoor 3-pointer.
Leading 22-21 at the half, the Panthers then widened their margin with two sizable runs in the third quarter, scoring six straight to open the period and later putting up 11 in a row to lead by as many as 13. The Panthers made 7 of 11 (63.6 percent) from the field in the period, while holding the Eagles to just 5 for 16 (31.3 percent).
Kameron Taylor led the Eagles (18-11) with 23 points.
“Our defense ramped up and it led to our offense and it was all good from there,” Memorial coach Santino Reynolds said. “We set that goal in the locker room last year, that we didn’t want to feel like (that) again. I told them, ‘We have to go take it,’ and they came out today and took it.”
Memorial was a state phenomenon in the 1970s led by coach Mary Brown and future Harlem Globetrotter Jackie White. The Panthers won eight section titles in a 10-year run through 1986, but only one (2012) since.
Memorial, Bakersfield Christian and one additional section D-V team will play in the CIF State Regionals next week.
All of the section’s boys and girls representatives – 28 in all – won’t know if they’ll play in the state’s North or South regions until Sunday’s seedings.