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Members of the St. Margaret's girls basketball team celebrate their 2023 CIF-Southern Section Championship following a 44-33 win over Gahr, Saturday night at Edison High School in Huntington Beach, Calif. The CIF-SS Championship is the first in the school's history. (Ryan Kuhn, SOCoPrepSports.com)

Basketball

St. Margaret’s girls basketball completes magical playoff run, crowned as CIF-SS champs

Tartans win their first CIF title in program history

HUNTINGTON BEACH — St. Margaret’s senior guard Kaitlin Tam was handed the CIF-Southern Section championship trophy and raised it over her head.

“This was for all of us,” Tam said. “It feels like a win for everyone that has gone through this program and for everyone who taught me anything.”

The Tartans earned the school’s first CIF-Southern Section Championship with a 44-33 win over Gahr in the Div. 5AA final Saturday night at Edison High School.

“I cannot be prouder of a group of kids,” said coach Josh Markum. “In October we talked about setting out a goal that we thought was obtainable and realistic. Every game they have gotten better and have become more mature.”

That maturity and experience was showcased throughout the first quarter. After Tam hit her first three freshman Lila Wohlgemuth added one of her own followed by a put back by Annika Tufo. 

The Gladiators stormed back and even took the lead on a shot inside by Kameryn Mitchell with 5:24 left in the first half, but the Tartans held their ground. 

Harper Gideons found Sophia Gazzaniga on a quick inside score and two more shots by Taylor Francois gave them an 18-17 halftime lead. 

“We talked about being sound defensively,” Markum said. “It was a low scoring first half and if we needed to grind this one out so then let’s buckle down on defense.”

Gahr has been led by Mitchell all season who averages 11.4 points per game, but the Tartans held her to two buckets in the second half. 

They were also without their top defender Addie West who suffered a concussion early in the semifinal game against South Hills, but continued to key in on the Gladiators’ top scorer. 

On the other end, Tam continued to find the basket with her second 3-pointer and another outside shot by Wohlgemuth gave St. Margaret’s a double digit lead. 

Tam led St. Margaret’s with 12 points while also grabbing nine rebounds. 

“I’ve been so off the whole playoff run and I think yesterday I stayed a whole hour after practice to make sure I was ready for this game,” Tam said. “That culminated and there was a job that needed to be done.”

Gahr made one final push with about five minutes left as Lauren Teramoto hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit down to five points, but Tufo found openings inside as the Tartans started to slow down the pace. 

It wasn’t long before the celebration began. 

“To hold a team like this under 40 points in a final is just tough and gritty by these girls,” Markum said. 

While Tam will start her next chapter in the fall playing basketball for Division III MIT, St. Margaret’s returns eight players including four starters next season. 

“Everyone on this team has worked so hard and this was always in the back of our minds,” said Francois, who finished with a double double of 11 points and 10 rebounds. “Now that it’s happened, it’s just so exciting.”

Ryan was born and raised in Dana Point went to Dana Hills High School. He graduated from Sacramento State University with a BA in Journalism. Throughout his career as a sports journalist, he has covered high schools, colleges, and professional teams. After working for multiple newspapers in as many states, he came to the conclusion that what he really wanted was to make sure the high schools in his hometown area got the sports coverage they deserved. Follow him on Twitter @rskuhn

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