BASKETBALL: Cougars leave no doubt with MBL Tournament championship

Christopher celebrates their 32-28 win over Monte Vista

WATSONVILLE — It took the Christopher High girls basketball team a little more than three minutes into regulation to snap from its offensive funk. Monte Vista Christian School never seemed to find a way out of its, however.

Hanna Tabron had a game-high 21 points to go along with 13 rebounds and eight steals, Merrett Brown and Olivia Tabron each chimed in with 10 points apiece, and the top-seeded Cougars opened up a 14-2 first-quarter lead and never looked back en route to an easy 52-20 victory over No. 3 MVC in the Monterey Bay League Tournament championship.

The previous two meetings between the teams had been decided by five points or less, but Friday’s title game at Pajaro Valley High never developed into much of a battle.

“We had wrapped up the banner [in the regular season]. But had we lost, it would have been a co-champ,” Christopher coach Heather Stewart said. “I told them … they had to play like champions, and they did that.

“I think this was the best game they’ve put together as a unit. They were definitely fired up to play.”

There will be no dueling banners this season. Christopher (20-5) won its first-ever MBL regular-season title this year after finishing the league slate with an 11-1 mark. Its only loss came at the hands of MVC (18-7) in overtime on Jan. 19.

Friday’s tournament win only seemed to drive home that point.

“We’ve been having a really good season and every team has an off game. This just happened to be ours,” said MVC center Sydney Beadle, who led the Mustangs with 12 points. “They played amazing. Everything was dropping for them. It was ridiculous.”

Christopher shot 43 percent in the first half.

MVC was coming off one its biggest wins of the season when it edged Seaside in the MBL Tournament semifinals on Thursday night. Seaside had downed the Mustangs twice during the regular season.

What followed Friday appeared to be a heartbreaking way to end the MBL schedule. But minutes afterward, MVC seemed poised for its next task — the Central Coast Section playoffs. The CCS seeding meeting will be held Sunday at the CCS offices in San Jose.

“We’re not gonna keep our heads down,” MVC junior Mikaela Coffelt said. “We’re gonna keep our heads up and our eyes on the prize.”

On Friday, both teams came out flat and exhibited sloppy play on offense to open the game, however, combining for zero points and eight turnovers in the first three minutes of regulation.

“Nothing would fall,” Hanna Tabron said. “I think it was nerves. But we picked it up and our defense is what carried us in the game.”

After MVC’s Myckenzie Toler ended the skid when she knocked down a mid-range jumper in the paint, giving the Mustangs a 2-0 lead midway through the first quarter, it was all Christopher from there.

Brown hit a baseline jumper 10 seconds later, Cydney Caradonna converted a turnover into a breakaway lay-up, and the Cougars closed out the quarter on a 14-0 run.

It was 34-7 at halftime.

“It was really important because we didn’t want to share the banner,” said Hanna Tabron, who had 12 points on 6 of 11 shooting in Christopher’s dominant first half.

Tabron recalled how the football season ended, with Christopher and MVC, as well as Monterey, all splitting the MBL title.

“We wanted to win it on our own,” she added.

There was never any doubting that on Friday night.

Christopher dominated the glass, picked through MVC’s zone with quick cuts and converted easy baskets in transition, either off the Mustangs’ turnovers or missed shots.

“We’re usually bad against a zone, but today we did good,” Tabron said. “We made the right cuts, moved the ball well and hit open shots.”

MVC was never able to snap out of it, while Christopher never relented.

“They played a great game,” Toler said. “We’ve never wanted a game so bad in our lives. I think we psyched ourselves out.”

The Mustangs didn’t find their offense until the fourth quarter, finding Beadle in the low post for short-range baskets.

“I’m proud of the way our girls never put their heads down,” Beadle said. “We stayed with it. We’ve played teams on their off night before. This was ours.”

Both teams will await to see where they’re seeded when the Central Coast Section seeding meeting is held on Sunday.

“We still need to practice hard because the teams in CCS are gonna be just as hard,” Tabron said. “We need to keep working.”

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