For the second time in three seasons, International High School of San Francisco ended the North Coast Section basketball championship dreams of the St. Vincent Lady Mustangs.
This time around, however, the game was for the NCS Division V championship, and the disciplined Jaguars prevailed, 51-41, at Albany High School on Saturday. The game for all the marbles was hard fought from the opening tap, and much more emotional than their last section battle in 2012 as International gradually pulled away in the final minutes to grab the title for the first time in the history of the school.
St. Vincent came into the historic fray as the underdogs after dropping a contest to International earlier in the season. The Mustangs, never before a finalist in section play, galloped past three difficult opponents with grit and some 3-point explosions always involved somewhere in their wins.
The 3-point bombs were defused in this one, as St. Vincent was pushed out a little past a comfort zone, and the team connected on only one of its first 13 attempts from long range in the first half. Only one shot from distance by guard Maddie Perry found its way home, and that was a game opener.
Meanwhile, International got an outstanding first half from clever guard Shyna Mehta, who used a yo-yo dribble to get space enough for 14 points in the first half, and the Jaguars led, 23-15. Mehta, didn't pass up may shot opportunities despite close guarding by Perry and Rebecca Dodele. Her shooting performance came on the heels of a 29-point effort against No 1 seeded Valley Christian on Wednesday.
St. Vincent finally got something going in the third period on a shot from downtown by Grace Jennings and four points by senior Ursyla Baumgarten.
Baumgarten decided to give it a go after missing 13 games with a knee injury, and, despite showing a bit of rust, she settled in to again be a scoring threat for the Mustangs. After missing a couple of driving lay-ins the competitive senior became a solid outlet for breaking the press, and she warmed to the task with six consecutive free throws.
At one point, St. Vincent came all the way back to lead, 26-25, lead on a shot from the baseline by Jacalyn Murphy. The advantage didn't last long, and the Mustangs fell behind, 36-31, after three quarters.
In the late going. Natalie Kelly took over for the Jaguars, and scored 15 points to stall any further comeback plans by St. Vincent. Several of her game total of 23 points came on bullet passes from the alert Mehta. Mehta topped all scorers with 24 points.
Unfortunately for both teams, the game was disjointed without much pace. For the first time in 27 games, the Mustangs and Jaguars had to deal with a three-official crew and every touch was called. St. Vincent was in double bonus in both the first and second half defensively, and Murphy and Baumgarten were lost to fouls while the game was still in doubt.