O'Dowd boasts many heroes as the Dragons advance to the Division I state title game against Rosary Academy
PINOLE — As second-seeded Bishop O’Dowd received its championship medals following a 62-60 victory over No. 1 seed Salesian to advance to Friday’s California Interscholastic Federation Division I state championship game, players congregated near center court and dapped each other up as names were called, giving out high fives and fist bumps — the typical mix.
But when Abagail Pagila, who finished with 12 points and three steals, received her medal, the standard greeting wasn’t enough.
Pagila had worn the joyful tears of a champion since the final buzzer sounded. When the senior co-captain made her way to her teammates, she was embraced with hugs.
Bishop O’Dowd boasted many heroes Tuesday night. Kennedy Johnson totaled a team-high 17 points along with six rebounds, two steals and a block. Amaya Bonner dazzled with 16 points, three rebounds and two assists. Skylar Tyson-Stockey threw up six points and four rebounds off the bench.
None of the Dragons, however, matched Pagila’s heroic play down the stretch. In the game’s final minute, she scored four points, hit the go-ahead free throw and iced the game to will her team to the state final.
“She just played so smart,” Bishop O’Dowd coach Malik McCord said. “As a senior, she played as a senior tonight. I’m so proud of her.”
Pagila’s literal last-minute heroics were just one part of a wild fourth quarter that made for an instant classic. Here’s how the final moments of this game went down:
With 2:08 remaining in regulation, Johnson gets fouled and hits a pair of free throws. O’Dowd takes a 58-56 lead, its first of the game.
The following possession, Alexsandra Alvarado found Silivia “Via” Fonongaloa for a layup to tie the game at 58 apiece. Fonongaloa, who took a hard fall in the first quarter, hits the hardwood and is down for several minutes. She eventually walks off the floor on her own power and is replaced by Alyssa Jackson.
O’Dowd takes the lead back the next possession. Bonner finds Pagila, who slightly pump-faked in the left corner before driving and connecting on a mid-range baseline jumper. Dragons lead, 60-58, with one minute remaining.
Salesian comes down, fails to score and fouls on the rebound attempt, but Jackson steals O’Dowd’s in-bounds pass and lays it in. Game tied at 60.
Pagila receives an in-bounds pass, dribbles along the sideline trying to advance the ball into the front court and is fouled. She knocks down one of two free throws. Bishop O’Dowd leads, 61-60, with 23.5 seconds remaining.
Salesian advances the ball into the front court after Pagila misses the second free throw. O’Dowd’s defense stifles Salesian and the shot clock dwindles down to its final seconds. Pagila picks off a pass and is fouled with 3.2 seconds remaining.
Pagila makes the first free throw, putting Bishop O’Dowd up 62-60, but misses the second. Jackson collects the rebound and Salesian calls timeout with 2.6 seconds remaining. Per high school rules, the ball does not advance into the front court. Salesian misses a half-court heave that hits the backboard and O’Dowd comes away with the win.
For Bishop O’Dowd, those final two minutes were the culmination of an entire evening spent battling. Salesian exploded out of the gate with an 11-0 run, taking advantage of a zone defense that McCord admitted wasn’t a set its opponent usually ran.
After Salesian went up 9-0, McCord called time out and began transitioning back to man-to-man, which helped calm the waters. The Dragons wouldn’t score their first points until 2:45 remained in the first quarter, but clicked after breaking the seal and went into halftime tied 28-28.
Midway through the fourth quarter with the game still close, Salesian played with palpable energy and began inching away. Alvarado and Fonongaloa, who finished with 15 and 16 points, respectively, combined to score 10 in the final period.
In one particular play with Salesian already up several points, Amira Brown — who finished with 14 rebounds, nine points, three steals and four blocks — chased down a missed shot and threw it off a O’Dowd player as her momentum took her out of bounds, much to the enjoyment of her bench.
McCord’s bunch summoned up their own juice when it mattered most, outscoring Salesian 20-14 in the fourth.
“I told them before the game, no matter if we get up or if we get down, you continue to believe in each other,” McCord said. “We can battle back from any situation. It came to fruition today.”
O’Dowd will head up to the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento for a rematch of last year’s Division I final against Rosary Academy.
Rosary Academy defeated O’Dowd in last year’s championship, but the Dragons avenged that loss earlier this season.
Among those who played in the 2019 title game were Pagila, Bonner, Johnson, Tyson-Stockey, Kayla Hankins, Kaysie Watanabe, Jenne Kilty, Kali Myers, Skylar McGlockton and Maisie Keating.
“This is the tiebreaker right here,” McCord said. “It’s more redemption than anything. It’s not revenge. We’re not only glad (to have the opportunity), but we want to go finish the deal this time.”
Here is a link to the article: