It was by no means pretty, with both Madera and Sanger throwing up enough bricks to pave a highway between the cities.
In the lowest-scoring girls basketball Central Section final in the Selland Arena era, Madera beat Sanger 27-26 for the girls Division III title Saturday afternoon.
Fittingly, the Coyotes prevailed on a missed shot – a layup by Sanger’s Ashley Mata that rolled in and out of the basket.
The teams combined to shoot just 6-for-48 in the first half, and finished the game a collective 18-for-98 including 0-for-25 from 3-point range.
It’s the second section crown in school history for Madera, which came up just short a year ago, losing in the final against Mission Oak. The Coyotes’ other title came in 2003 in D-I.
“It doesn’t feel real, it really doesn’t. I’m still shocked,” said senior foward Ximena Escobar, who had 13 points and seven rebounds. “It’s an amazing opportunity to play here. We were here last year and it didn’t go our way, but for it to go our way this year means a lot. All the work and conditioning we put in paid off today.”
Stephanie Herring led the Apaches with six points and 12 rebounds. Savannah Rocha added six and 10 rebounds. Vanessa Hernandez, who entered Saturday averaging 16.5 points per game for the Apaches, was held to just five points on 1-for-18 shooting.
“I think we should’ve won this game but our shots weren’t falling,” Hernandez said. “I wasn’t having my greatest game, either, and we missed a lot of open layups. We just wanted to bring the title back to Sanger but we came up short.”
It was the third time the Coyotes have beaten the Apaches this season, going 2-0 against Sanger in the County/Metro Athletic Conference.
“Every coach knows to beat a team three times in one year is a very, very difficult thing to do. Sanger is a very good team. I have a lot of respect for those kids and that coaching staff,” Madera coach Jason Smith said.
The Coyotes, Apaches and two additional section D-III teams advance to the CIF State Regionals next week.
All of the section’s boys and girls representatives – 28 in all – won’t know if they will play in the state’s North or South regions until Sunday’s seedings.