The St. Francis High girls basketball team got away with being shorter and shorthanded in the first half of Saturday’s Central Coast Section Division II final, leading Lynbrook by five at the break.
The Vikings took advantage of the Lancers’ deficiencies in the second half, however, rallying for a 40-34 victory at Santa Clara University.
Lynbrook’s 6-foot-1 center, Sara Dyslin, scored 16 of her 22 points after intermission against a St. Francis squad that doesn’t have a player taller than 5-10. The top-seeded Lancers looked helpless at times against Dyslin, who routinely caught lob passes in the post and scored over a single defender.
“I wasn’t happy with our post effort, but give them credit,” St. Francis coach Brian Harrigan said. “In these situations, you’ve got to make plays. Big players make plays. She’s a senior – she made plays. Our kids didn’t make plays. That’s the difference.”
That wasn’t the only difference, though. The Lancers (16-12 overall) played without two key starters. Point guard Daisha Abdelkader and guard/forward Marisa Mondave did not suit up.
“That was a team decision on Daisha and Marisa not playing tonight – the coaching staff’s decision,” Harrigan said of sitting out his assist and scoring leader, respectively. “You play with who’s there. They weren’t there and there was a reason why they weren’t there.”
St. Francis survived without them in a ragged first half for both teams. The Lancers didn’t score until nearly four minutes went by – forward Jenesis Merriman hit a short baseline jumper – but Lynbrook had only two points at the time. The Lancers led 9-5 at the end of the first quarter.
St. Francis forced eight turnovers before halftime and made a trio of 3-pointers. Guard Isabel Knox knocked down a pair of treys in the half and forward Adriana Frazier drained the other at the start of the second quarter. A drive by guard Samantha D’Costa – who finished with a team-high 11 points – put the Lancers up 14-7 with 6:29 left in the quarter.
That’s as big as the lead would get. The second-seeded Vikings – looking to avenge last year’s playoff loss to the Lancers – cut the deficit to three before Knox buried a triple from the right baseline with five seconds left in the quarter. St. Francis held a tenuous 19-13 lead at the half.
Dyslin outscored the Lancers by a point the rest of the way. She scored six points in a third quarter in which St. Francis mustered just seven. The Lancers missed eight of their 11 shots in the period and trailed 28-26 at the end of it.
“I think we had more confidence in the first half and were attacking and trying to make our stuff work,” said St. Francis forward Lauren Johnson, who totaled six points. “The second half it didn’t come as easily for us and we had to force more shots up, and they had great defense.”
Lynbrook (19-8) extended its advantage to 32-26 less than a minute into the fourth, thanks to back-to-back buckets by Dyslin. The Lancers narrowed the deficit to four on guard Kiana Tom’s rainbow trey from the left baseline with 3:31 to play.
Dyslin made a pair of baskets in the paint over the next two minutes to stretch the lead to 40-32. St. Francis wouldn’t score until 33 seconds remained – a midrange floater by D’Costa that banked in.