The Cardinal Newman Girls basketball team was eight points down early in the third quarter and scored a season low three points in the fourth quarter.
That doesn’t sound like a combination for success. But today after using defense, rebounding and one big run, the Cardinal Newman Girls are the 2016 Division IV State Champions, after holding off Antelope Valley 39-37 to take the crown.
The streak that turned out to do it for Cardinal Newman came in the third. A three point field goal by Antelope Valley’s Savannah Sullivan started the second half scoring. It was Sullivan’s only basket in the game, capping a 12-1 run and Cardinal Newman was behind 27-19. Up until that run, there were seven lead changes and three ties. The biggest first half difference was a 12-7 lead by Cardinal Newman late in the first quarter.

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Junior forward Hailey Vice-Neat led the way, scoring 19 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. (Photo by Jim Rael)

After an exchange of baskets made it made it 29-21 with 6:50 left, Cardinal Newman called a time out. What followed was 17-2 run to give Cardinal Newman the lead they wouldn’t lose. Lauren Walker scored the first four points of the run. These were her only points of the game, but she was a factor on the other end right to the end, with eleven rebounds and seven blocked shots. Hailey Vice-Neat scored eight of her game high 19 points during the run. She also had a game high twelve rebounds. Her offensive put back, which was followed by a three point shot gave Cardinal Newman a 33-29 lead with 2:10 to go in the quarter. It was one of three 3-point shots for Vice-Neat.
Another basket by Vice-Neat with 4:53 to go in the fourth gave Cardinal Newman their biggest lead of the game at 38-31. That turned out to be the last field goal of the game and of the season for Cardinal Newman. They would only hit one free throw the rest of the way. That was out of six attempts, which included two on the front end of a one and one.
While Cardinal Newman missed some free throws down the stretch that would have made life easier for them, they won this thing with solid defense, Antelope Valley having its own free throw problems, a questionable call, hustle and quick thinking.
An old fashioned three point play by Niyah Page and a free throw by Tylen Price cut the lead to 38-35 with 2:42 left. Price, who is the daughter of Antelope Valley head coach Deon Price, was the leading score for Antelope Valley with 14 points. But, and this is a big but, that free throw was her only score of the second half.
For the game, Antelope Valley, who shot 70% from the free throw line on the season, was five of fifteen from the free throw line. Two of the missed free throws came with :59.5 left with Cardinal Newman hanging on to a 39-37 lead. Those free throws were set up by a hustle play by Tal Webb. After Cardinal Newman had a shot blocked by Niyah Page, the rebound was thrown out to Savannah Sullivan, who looked like she had a breakaway layup. But Webb, who was well behind Sullivan as she caught the ball in the front court, came from nowhere and stopped the layup with a foul and after the two missed free throws Cardinal Newman still had its lead.
Right after those free throws, the quick thinking was by Cardinal Newman head coach Monica Mertle. After Cardinal Newman got the rebound, they were trapped in the back court under their own basket and it looked like they lost the ball, which was setting up a tying basket. But before the steal, Mertle got a time out from the bench to save the day.
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Center Lauren Walker (left) blocked 7 shots in the championship game. (Photo by Jim Rael)

The pressure defense bugged Cardinal Newman a good portion of the game. Really, it did most of the time, when Antelope Valley used it. Why they didn’t use it more is hard to understand. The pressure on the next possession almost caused another turnover when Cardinal Newman got the call of the game. With only :05 left on the shot clock, Cardinal Newman was trapped near midcourt. The ball bounced away and it looked like a shot clock violation was coming. But a questionable kick was called on Antelope Valley ,which reset the thirty second shot clock with :33 left in the game.
Although the call was crucial, it didn’t really change much.   It did force Antelope Valley to foul, but Cardinal Newman couldn’t take advantage of it, missing the front in of a one and one. So Antelope Valley got the ball five seconds later in the same situation and would get two more shots at a tie, well two more possessions as Cardinal Newman couldn’t end things at the free throw line.
One the first possession, Antelope Valley missed two shots and got another rebound, but was called for a travel to give the ball back to Cardinal Newman with :10.7 left.
Cardinal Newman was fouled again with :07.2 left, missed both free throws to give Antelope Valley one more chance. Tyler Smith drove the length of the court and the main reason Cardinal Newman won this game showed up at the biggest time of the season. That was the combination of Walker and Vice-Neat. Walker blocked shot number seven, which if they kept track of that could be a record and Vice-Neat pulled down rebound number twelve and Cardinal Newman had their championship.
For Antelope Valley, it was their first loss since November. They had a thirty game winning streak going into the game and end the season 30-3.
For Cardinal Newman it took five seasons to get its first state championship. In their first year as Cardinal Newman under coach Mertle they went 13-15. They improved each season, even though there didn’t seem much hope for improvement. The last three seasons they went 81-20 overall and 41-1 in NBL play.
The state championship is the fifth in local history.
Oh yes, they also won the school’s first state championship.
Congratulation Cardinal Newman.
March 9, 1991…Palos Verdes 58 Healdsburg 42…Oakland Coliseum
March 21, 1992…Brea Olinda 47 Healdsburg 44…ARCO Arena, Sacramento
March 18, 2000…Bishop Montgomery 57 Petaluma 45…ARCO Arena, Sacramento
March 20, 1992…Ursuline 61 Santa Ynez 59…ARCO Arena, Sacramento
March 21, 1997…Rincon Valley Christian 53 Christian, El Cajon 38…Arrowhead Pond, Anaheim
March 20, 1998…Santa Margarita 61 Montgomery 52…ARCO Arena, Sacramento
March 19, 1983…Cloverdale 71 Crossroads 64…LA Sports Arena
March 17, 1984…Cloverdale 53 Pasadena Poly 52…Oakland Coliseum
March 17, 1989….Santa Clara, Oxnard 62 Cardinal Newman 49…Ventura College
March 15, 1996…Washington Union, Fresno 56 Cardinal Newman 42…ARCO Arena, Sacramento
March 24, 2007…Campbell Hall, North Hollywood 70 Cardinal Newman 34…ARCO Arena, Sacramento
March 23, 2013…Pacific Hills, West Hollywood 58 Cardinal Newman 52…Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento
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