By Harold Abend
Contributing: Mark Tennis
It was a case of just too much Natalie Romeo as she led Cardondelet of Concord past Archbishop Mitty of San Jose 89-69 on Saturday night in a CIF Northern California Open Division girls quarterfinal.
In the team’s most important game so far this season, their junior star came up with a huge performance after registering a career-high 34 points with six rebounds, five steals and three assists, in an offensive explosion by the second-seed that dismantled defending CIF Division II state champion and visiting Mitty.
“We welcomed the Open Division,” remarked Carondelet veteran head coach Margaret Gartner, who then continued. “It wasn’t our best game of the year, but it was the biggest game so far. We really felt like tonight was the Northern California Division II championship game.”
It’s hard to argue that point. Not only have Carondelet and Mitty met four times in the past five years in the NorCal D2 playoffs (the only time they didn’t Carondelet was stuck in D1 and made the NorCal final that year regardless), but the “real” D2 North semifinals next week will include two teams (St. Francis of Mountain View, Presentation of San Jose) that Mitty has beaten a combined six times this season against no losses.
The game was a back-and-forth battle early on, and NorCal Open No. 3 seed Carondelet (26-3) only led 44-38 early in the third quarter, however from there the hosts exploded for a 21-4 run that pretty much sealed the deal, even though a 10-1 Mitty run closed it to 69-55 to start the fourth quarter.
Besides Romeo, three other Cougar girls were in double-figure scoring, led by Mackenzie Cast with 13 points. Lauren Nicolosi had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Gabriella Grupalo chipped in with 12 points.
Sixth seed Mitty (24-7) was led by Kelli Hayes with 17 points. Vanessa Garner added 15 points.
Despite a decided height disadvantage Carondelet had a 30-21 rebounding advantage.
“We’re little but we’re scrappy,” said a beaming Gartner.
The Cougars will now meet No. 2 seed St. Mary’s of Stockton next Tuesday on the road in a NorCal Open Division semifinal.
After Miramonte of Orinda almost upset the Rams in Stockton, Gartner and her girls have to feel good about their chances.
Boys Open Division
Archbishop Mitty (San Jose 63), Newark Memorial (Newark) 51
When Newark Memorial sharp-shooter Joey Frenchwood hit four 3-pointers in the early going to give the visitors an 18-7 lead after one quarter, the local Monarchs’ faithful were rattled.
It took a little time, but McDonald’s All-American Aaron Gordon and his teammates responded. By halftime they had cut it to a 29-26 deficit, and from there Gordon took over.
It was not far his biggest performance of the season, but the 6-foot-8 Monarchs’ senior star made a statement in a win or you’re out game, finishing with 14 points, 17 rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Frenchwood had 19 points for Newark, although only five after the first quarter.
The No. 2 seed Monarchs now have a semifinal matchup with upset winner and No. 6 seed Modesto Christian (Modesto) at home on Tuesday in San Jose.
State Divisional Updates
•Long Beach Poly’s girls eliminated top seed Etiwanda in the D1 South bracket with a 57-51 triumph. Etiwanda thus ends with two straight losses – one to Santiago of Corona in the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA final and then this one to the Jackrabbits – after it knocked off unbeaten national No. 1 Mater Dei of Santa Ana in overtime at home in the CIFSS D1AA semifinals. The Eagles had a bye in the first-round earlier in the week, but unfortunately had to play the other top team in the bracket in the quarterfinals due to the questionable method the CIF uses to seed teams in its basketball playoffs. Etiwanda’s girls also had their season end in 2011 and 2012 with playoff losses to the Jackrabbits.
•The Campolindo of Moraga boys knocked off their second straight section champion opponent and have advanced to the NorCal D3 semifinals. What’s significant about that is that the Cougars needed CIF North Coast Section commissioner Gil Lemmon to admit he made a mistake at last week’s seeding meeting when he put Miramonte of Orinda into the field. Campo did eventually get in and opened with a 58-50 triumph over CIF Central Coast Section D3 champ Burlingame. On Saturday, the Cougars upset NCS D3 champ El Cerrito 69-65 in overtime.
•The NorCal D1 boys semifinals on Tuesday will match top seed Deer Valley of Antioch against Bellarmine of San Jose along with De La Salle of Concord facing Pleasant Grove of Elk Grove. Scores from Saturday: Deer Valley 83-69 over Freedom of Oakley; Bellarmine 64-46 over McClymonds of Oakland; De La Salle 43-39 over San Leandro; and Pleasant Grove 60-36 over Piedmont Hills of San Jose.
•The SoCal D1 boys semifinals on Tuesday will pit top seed Santa Monica against Mission Hills of San Marcos along with Loyola of Los Angeles meeting Crenshaw of Los Angeles. Scores from Saturday: Santa Monica 76-63 in overtime over Palisades of Pacific Palisades; Mission Hills 49-47 over Inglewood; Loyola 81-70 over El Toro of Lake Forest; and Crenshaw 61-59 over Rancho Verde of Moreno Valley.
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