An incredible season for the Miramonte girls basketball team ended one game short of the premier state championship game.
The Matadors never fully overcame a slow start and lost to Salesian 78-64 in the CIF Northern Regional Open Division title game on March 22 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.
The loss came after the Matadors, the No. 7 seed in the Open Division bracket, posted two impressive road wins over St. Mary's-Stockton and Carondelet to reach the final.
Miramonte relied on its fast-paced style to score over 90 points in four straight wins heading into the NorCal final, including a 92-87 win over Carondelet when sophomore Sabrina Ionescu scored eight of her 35 points in the final 77 seconds.
But the Matadors got off to an extremely slow start against Salesian, trailing 24-5 after the first quarter and 42-24 at halftime.
"Seeing how we started, (Carondelet) might have been our championship game right there," Miramonte coach Kelly Sopak said. "That was a big game for our area. These kids went out on the road two times and delivered upsets and we just came out a little slugglish."
But Miramonte didn't go away. When Salesian star Mariya Moore picked up her fourth foul with 5:53 left in the third quarter, the Matadors went on a huge run.
"I just don't think we were quite ready and had some jitters," Miramonte senior Megan Reid said. "We're a young team, but we're a team that never quits."
The Matadors got as close as 58-53 early in the fourth quarter on two Breanna Alford free throws, but Salesian was able to hold on.
A three-pointer by Moore and old-fashioned three-point play by Kian McNair with about three minutes left helped seal the deal for Salesian.
Ionescu was instrumental in the Matadors' second-half charge and finished with a game-high 23 points. She connected on three consecutive 3-pointers during Miramonte's third quarter surge.
Alford, who broke a Miramonte school record by playing in her 125th career game, finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
The Matadors finished the season 30-2 with both losses coming to Salesian.