Before she was able to launch the biggest shots of her young career, Immanuel High freshman Krystale Gutierrez had to summon the courage to actually take them.
She had been off-target much of the day, misfiring on her first six shots. But as the action intensified, Gutierrez stepped up. Again and again.
Gutierrez scored all 13 of her points in the fourth quarter, hitting three 3-pointers, to propel No. 2 Immanuel to a 44-32 victory against top-seeded Orosi in the Central Section Division IV championship Saturday at Selland Arena.
Immanuel (22-6) captured its third straight title, the previous two in D-V, and snapped Orosi’s 17-game winning streak.
“I was trying to keep calm,” Gutierrez said. “I was really nervous. I didn’t want to lose.
“When I shot them, I was really excited. I just threw it up there kind of and thanked God. I prayed to God I’d get my shots in because I was off most of the game.”
Gutierrez finished 4 of 10 from the field, but 3 of 6 beyond the 3-point arc. Point guard Zoe March also had 13 along with seven rebounds and four assists.
The Eagles finished on a 19-4 run, ignited by eight straight points from Gutierrez as March set up her first-year teammate for open shots from the corner.
“We told them at the beginning of the game that we couldn’t lose her,” Orosi coach Mark Cerda said of his defense. “We lost her in that fourth quarter. She snuck out, made some big shots.”
Orosi took the loss hard, with many players crying and consoling each other. The Cardinals (27-3) were chasing what would have been the first section title in school history and were backed by a wave of fans at the downtown arena.
Orosi had defeated its previous 14 opponents by an average of 43.9 points. The last time the Cardinals were involved in a close game was a 45-39 victory against Corcoran on Jan. 12.
“We haven’t lost in a long time, since probably late December,” Cerda said. “But the flip side of it was when we lose, it hurts. It stings us, burns us.
“We probably didn’t handle things as well as we should’ve in the fourth quarter and after the game.”
Orosi guards MaRazelle Quicio and Isabella Jimenez each scored 10 points.
The Cardinals were down eight in the fourth when they went on an 11-0 run to take their first lead since the second quarter. Jimenez drilled a 3-pointer with 6:45 left, putting Orosi on top 28-25.
“I thought for a moment that they were going to win,” Gutierrez said. “I thought we had given up.”
Immanuel soon responded with eight straight points from Gutierrez.
The Eagles helped their cause with a 10-of-13 performance from the free-throw line, including 6 of 6 from March.
“Our team has been working so hard to keeping up the streak,” March said. “A three-peat is such a big deal for everyone. I think this game was definitely the hardest (championship).”
• March, amid the postgame celebration, revealed Immanuel had dedicated the game to the family of Megan Snyder, the Kingsburg High student who died in an automobile accident Friday.
“We dedicated this game to Megan Snyder and her family,” March said. “This whole team is backing them up. We just want to let them know that they have a big community behind them and they’re not alone on this.”