By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Sports Editor
AZUSA.–As her players celebrated with their CIF patches and championship plaque, North Torrance head coach Lauren Kamiyama was concerned with quickly getting her team off the court. There was, after all, another game coming up immediately.
Relax, Coach. If you’ve ever earned a moment to bask in glory, this is it.
Saturday’s CIF Southern Section Championships at Azusa Pacific University started off with an opening act that was going to be hard to top: a stunning, come-from-way-behind, 50-49 overtime victory that gave North its first-ever title in girls’ basketball.
North’s win was the first of three crowns for schools from Torrance – South staged a heart-stopping comeback and West repeated as champions.
For Kamiyama, it was also the game that erased any lingering doubt about her carrying on her family’s sparkling heritage of sports excellence.
North came storming back from a 19-point third-quarter deficit to a taller, stronger – but ultimately exhausted – El Dorado team, taking the lead into the final seconds and nearly winning it in regulation. An end-to-end drive by El Dorado star Jaylin Jones tied the game at 45 as time ran out in the fourth.
The Saxons, though momentarily discouraged, held their ground and eked out the one-point win with a furious defensive stop in the final three seconds.
At halftime, it looked as though El Dorado was running away with the game. They dominated in rebounds at both ends, and North seemed hesitant to take shots.
“We were shot-faking a lot in the first half, and I don’t know why,” Kamiyama said after the win. “In the second, we were able to finally take good shots and wear [El Dorado] down with our defense.
“I wasn’t thinking about how many points we needed to make up. As a coach, I preach the need to play one possession at a time.”
North senior Kylie Oshiro might have been the smallest player on the court, but was arguably the busiest. In addition to her 11 points, the Saxons seemed to feed off her defensive tenacity, which led to the 16-0 run that began in the third period.
“Starting in the second half, we knew we just had to stay calm and hustle,” Oshiro said. “We knew who their big shooters were and we’ve had experience playing against bigger teams.”
“We always ask her to guard their best player,” Kamiyama said of Oshiro’s game. “The bonus today was how she really was the spark on offense.”
Brittany McPherson led North with 13 points, including three 3-pointers. Daylene Taualii had 12, Rylie Kamiya scored five, Katelyn Serizawa had four and Megan Takata added two.
Jones finished with a game-high 20 points for El Dorado.
Kamiyama’s assistant coach – and brother – Darin said this wasn’t simply a victory that will live forever in North High history. It’s also the moment that brings his sister into her own legacy, one outside that of their mother, the late Sue Kamiyama, who engineered titles in volleyball and was the inspirational athletic director at Bell High.
“Lauren is no longer ‘Little Sue’ from this day on,” Darin Kamiyama said with tears streaming down his face. “Mom is probably speechless right now, with a smile that’s as bright as ever. I’m awfully proud of my baby sister.”
North will begin play in the CIF State Tournament at home on Wednesday, when they host Arvin at 7 p.m.