St. Mary's conquers Pinnacle for 3-peat

St. Mary's conquers Pinnacle for 3-peat

News

St. Mary's conquers Pinnacle for 3-peat

By

GLENDALE — Phoenix St. Mary’s counts on an opponents’ animal instinct taking over. “Now,” St. Mary’s can hear your brain whisper. “I have to score now.”

For the first half of the Division I state title game Saturday at Jobing.com Arena, Phoenix Pinnacle players stifled that little voice in their heads. Pinnacle patiently broke the vaunted St. Mary’s press, and then calmly ran its halfcourt offense. It entered halftime ahead by six points.

But no one silences that voice for a full 32 minutes, not since Pinnacle handed St. Mary’s its last in-state loss in January 2011. In the second half, St. Mary’s unleashed the hounds , causing turnover havoc and playing its trademark chaotic style en route to a 49-37 win, marking its third consecutive state championship and its 60th straight win against an Arizona team.

“I couldn’t imagine a better group of kids,” St. Mary’s coach Curtis Ekmark said. “… Maybe there’s a better group, but I don’t know about them.”

The atmosphere in the St. Mary’s locker room at halftime was unfamiliar. Ekmark can’t remember the last time a team had so successfully slowed down his squad, and Washington-bound senior Chantel Osahor guessed it was her freshman year in a road game against Chandler Hamilton.

The tightness of the game was more than a little surprising.

“They made us play hard, harder than we ever have,” Osahor said. “It was a good test for us. Sometimes I think maybe we’re just going to win by default.”

There were no rah-rah speeches or Bob Knight butt-chewings from Ekmark. Just an apology.

“I kind of tried to outsmart ourselves in the first half,” he said. “We played passive. We thought they’d just kind of turn it over, and we didn’t want to gamble because we didn’t want to give them 3s. But that’s not the way we play.”

St. Mary’s (29-1) turned up the heat in the second half. After forcing Pinnacle (33-3) into just eight first-half turnovers, St. Mary’s collected 17 in the final two quarters.

Trailing 26-20 at intermission, St. Mary’s had just 12 points off turnovers. By game’s end, it had 30.

“They make you just go a lot faster than you want,” Pinnacle coach Troy Wiese said. “You want to play with composure, but it’s really tough for them. Every girl is just all over.”

Pinnacle tried nobly to maintain the pace it wanted in the second half, but as St. Mary’s engineered a 14-0 run that sapped up most of the third quarter, a sense of immediacy set in. Even down 37-30 to start the fourth, Pinnacle played like its pants were on fire.

It got as close as two with back-to-back buckets from Kenna McDavis and Britta Nordstrom, but not over the hump.

“I remember distinctly in the first game we played them (a 20-point loss) that we didn’t even set up an offense,” senior point guard Sydney Wiese said. “I felt like we did well the first 16 minutes. I knew they were going to come out hard in the second half, and they did. We freaked out a little bit and then got into a hole.”

Nordstrom scored 12 points and had 10 rebounds to lead Pinnacle, and McDavis added 11 points and nine boards.

St. Mary’s was led by junior Courtney Ekmark, who — playing with a broken nose the past four games, according to her father — had 14 points. Osahor added nine points and 10 rebounds.

Latest

More USA TODAY High School Sports