St. Mary's falls short against Mater Dei

St. Mary's falls short against Mater Dei

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St. Mary's falls short against Mater Dei

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Despite mounting a furious rally in the second half, the Phoenix St. Mary’s girls basketball team lost its first game of the season on Friday night at the Nike Tournament of Champions at Chandler Hamilton High.

Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, which led by 17 points in the first half, never trailed and held on for a 57-54 victory in a Division E semifinal game against the defending national champs, who entered the matchup with a 49-game winning streak.

Down 40-29 at halftime, St. Mary’s (9-1) got back in the game by outscoring Mater Dei 15-4 over the first five-plus minutes of the second half.

Senior Chantel Osahor led that charge with six points, including layups on back-to-back possessions.

Trailing 44-41, St. Mary’s junior Courtney Ekmark sank a 3-pointer to tie the score with 2:37 left in the third quarter.

Mater Dei (11-0) responded with a 6-3 run to end the period.

Both nationally ranked teams struggled to score in the fourth quarter; only four field goals and five free throws were made.

Osahor pulled St. Mary’s to within 55-54 with yet another layup with 1:48 to play, but Mater Dei’s Dina Abdel Mooti sank two free throws with 0:55 left.

St. Mary’s failed to score again despite multiple possessions.

“I was really proud of the way they responded,” St. Mary’s coach Curtis Ekmark said of his players. “They came back and played as hard as they could possibly play. I don’t feel like we lost. I feel like we ran out of time.

“… The good news is we fought. The bad news is we showed up 16 minutes late.”

Ekmark fought hard through stingy man-to-man defense by Mater Dei’s Cheyenne Allen and Jayde Woods to score a team-high 15 points.

“We rotated (Allen and Woods) on her, and they fought through screens and back picks,” Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan said.

“St. Mary’s is a very proud team and they didn’t want to lose and they got very aggressive. Our kids kept fighting and made (Ekmark) work for everything she got.”

Mater Dei’s Karlie Samuelson led all scorers with 18 points.

St. Mary’s will play vs. Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O’Dowd in Division E’s consolation game at 4:15 p.m. today at Hamilton.

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