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St. Bernard's girls basketball stuffs Grossmont for state title: 5 takeaways

Madelyn Shanahan is one of three Crusaders with a double-double, totaling 15 points, 16 rebounds, seven blocks, and three assists

SACRAMENTO - St. Bernard's Academy has a student population of under 250, and is nearly a 300-mile drive away from Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. 

But the Crusaders traveled well on Saturday, with a fan section that appeared to be as large as the school's enrollment.

The trip from Eureka was well worth it for St. Bernard's dominant girls basketball team and enthusiastic fans, as the Crusaders left no doubt in a 47-28 victory against Grossmont for a State Division IV title.

St. Bernard's girls basketball

Madelyn Shanahan and Laila Florvilus combined for 33 points, 30 rebounds, and nine blocks for St. Bernard's.

Here are five takeaways from the game:

1. Crusaders dominate inside

St. Bernard's size advantage – and its ability to use it – was the main story in this game. 

The Crusaders were much taller than undersized Grossmont across the board, with imposing forwards Madelyn Shanahan, Samantha Sundberg, and Jocelyn Sundberg looming inside and a big, athletic guard in Laila Florvilus running the show. They owned the boards 58-30, and recorded almost as many blocks (10) as Grossmont made field goals (11).

On top of struggling in the paint defensively, Grossmont had a rough shooting performance, going 11-62 from the field. Much of the credit went to St. Bernard's defense, funneling penetration into its rim protectors and contesting shots without fouling. Additionally, the Foothillers just needed to hit their makable shots at a much higher clip to have a chance, and it wasn't their game offensively.

"If we would have rebounded better, we would've initiated more transition-type offense, which would've resulted in easier buckets," Grossmont head coach Grace Campbell said.

"Our coaches have been preaching rebounding for the last couple weeks," St. Bernard's head coach Matt Tomlin said. 

"Coming into this game, our goal was to make Grossmont play left-handed based off what we saw on film. Because we played a tight zone... all five players would be closer to the basket, and we should be in a good rebounding position. And that was a large part. But also just our will on the offensive end to attack the glass."

2. Second quarter stretch decides the game

The key stretch of the game was the first half of the second quarter, which St. Bernard's won 9-0. After an 8-8 first quarter, St. Bernard's led 17-8 halfway through the second quarter and never looked back.

Kellan Hayden stopped the bleeding for Grossmont by hitting a floater off glass just past the halfway point of the quarter, after which her team trailed 17-10.

But St. Bernard's continued adding on, leading 21-10 a couple minutes later and 23-12 at halftime thanks to a put-back from Shanahan to close the quarter. And Grossmont never got back in the game.

St. Bernard's maintained its momentum to open the second half. In the first minute of the third quarter, the Crusaders recorded a four-point possession as Shanahan made a layup through a foul and Samantha Sundberg put back her three throw, putting them up 27-12.

The closest it got after that was 33-24 with about 6:30 left in the game and 35-27 with 4:58 left, both following field goals from Hayden. But St. Bernard's maintained its poise. Florvilus hit a pair of free throws to go up 38-27 and a layup on the next possession off a Shanahan feed to go up 40-27 with just over three minutes remaining, effectively icing the game.

Florvilus had a game-high 18 points, coming mostly in the second half, to go with 14 rebounds and two blocks. Shanahan totaled 15 points, 16 rebounds, seven blocks, and three assists. Samantha Sundberg also had a double-double for Grossmont with 12 points, 12 rebounds, and two steals on a game-best 6-9 clip from the field. Jocelyn Sundberg added seven rebounds and three assists.

3. Grossmont owns turnover battle to stay in game

While Grossmont never got all the way back into the game, it got quite close because of its outstanding full-court press. The Foothillers didn't get knocked out until the very end because they won the turnover battle 27-10, and played all-around excellent defense – rebounding notwithstanding.

"When we turned it over, we just kept getting stops on the other end," Tomlin said.

"Team defense. Just five people working together. 

"I would be shocked to know that we had 27 turnovers, but... that's a credit to Grossmont," Tomlin continued. "They're athletic, they're fast, and they have a constant pressure that really causes problems. But again, this team has a will to overcome any situation they face, and we did that again today."

4. Injuries plague Foothillers

While St. Bernard's was already up big before Grossmont suffered a couple late-game injuries, those injuries did not help the cause when the Foothillers had finally achieved some momentum.

Kieren Hayden went down with a lower body injury in the third quarter, tried to tough it out in the fourth quarter, and immediately had to sub out again.

Aakash Price also exited the game with an injury shortly afterwards, and did not return.

Despite the painful loss, it was a gutsy effort for Grossmont, which struggled to make shots and secure defensive rebounds but battled all game long.

"These kids fought hard to come back, and I just hate to see these girls fall short," Campbell said. "But overall we had a great season."

"We don't fold," Campbell said.

"We're always going to have our grit. When we're down, that motivates us more. When we were down [in an earlier playoff game] 14 points at the half, our grit brought us back. But unfortunately our shots weren't falling."

Kellan Hayden led Grossmont with 10 points, and Aakash Price totaled eight points, eight rebounds, and a game-high six steals. Amethyst Price had nine points and four steals.

5. Tomlin makes coaching history

In the press conference, Mark Tennis of CalHiSports noted that Tomlin is the first head coach in California high school history to win a state title in both football and girls basketball.

Tomlin responded, "I'm honored and blessed to coach at a school that is so amazing. I coach amazing student-athletes, and the families of our student-athletes are invested. We have a lot of people at St. Bernard's who work together. We have a saying at St. Bernard's, 'one family', and so these state championships... don't happen without the teamwork of our administration, the teachers at the school, our coaching staff, and our student-athletes. So this isn't just about me."