Aptos High girls' water polo team was edged by Santa Cruz, 10-9, in the CCS Division II Champioinship on Nov. 13 at San Benito High in Hollister. (Juan Reyes/The Pajaronian)

HOLLISTER—The Aptos High girls water polo team was one period away from notching a Central Coast Section title in what has already been a historic season for them.

But the No. 2 seed Mariners were held scoreless in the final stanza in a 10-9 loss to Santa Cruz High in the Division II championship at San Benito High School on Nov. 13.

Aptos coach Cory Murphy said it just came down to a couple of mistakes in the end and the top-seeded Cardinals capitalized on them. The game featured six ties and seven lead changes.

“It was a really good game, a championship game,” Murphy said. “Santa Cruz is a really good team and they brought it.”  

Sophomore Fiona Carey had four goals, Camryn Garcia two and Bella Abundis, Catie Kelly and Ciera Puente each scored once for the Mariners.

Zoe Ann Watson and Sonja Ukropina were clutch for in the fourth period, with the latter scoring the go-ahead goal for the Santa Cruz.

It was the fourth meeting between the Mariners (16-8) and Cardinals (15-5) this season. Santa Cruz won both regular season matchups, but the Mariners were victorious in the SCCAL tournament.

The Cardinals redeemed themselves with their third win this season against Aptos and the program’s first section title.

Aptos held on to a 5-3 lead going into halftime behind goals from Garcia and Carey. 

The Mariners kept the momentum going in the third. Kelly and Puente each knocked in a goal from long distance that gave them a 9-7 lead going into the final period.

“We know each other really well,” Murphy said. “We were matching up our best players on each other and that helps limit some opportunities, but it also created some.”

Watson scored both of her goals and tied the game at 9-all with 3 minutes left in the final stanza. The Cardinals were then set up with a power play and seconds later, Ukropina blasted one in front of the cage to score the game-winner with 2:14 left in the game. Daisy Mueller had the assist.

Santa Cruz senior Belene Rodriguez was part of the Cardinals team that made it to the CCS final two years ago but lost to Presentation High. She wasn’t going to let that happen again this year.  

“It’s awesome, I think it’s surreal,” she said. “Overall, we’re super excited. I’m really happy, it’s my last year. So, I’m really happy we can end it with a win and we’re not done yet.”

Rodriguez scored 10 goals for the No. 1 seed Cardinals in a 17-4 win against Porterville High in the NorCal D-III quarterfinals on Tuesday.

Murphy told the team to be proud of their season because no other Aptos squad has ever made it as far as the CCS championship.

“We’re the first and they should be proud of that,” he said. “They played like champions and even though we didn’t come out on top, we gave our best effort and that’s all I can ask for.”

Murphy said he hopes this experience will still leave a flame lit within the players and give them the desire to get back to a title game.

“Hopefully it’s a motivating factor because I’m ready to get back at it,” he said.   

Girls tennis

Mariners fall in CCS doubles: Aptos High’s Annika Lee and Madison Phillips were eliminated in the first round of the Central Coast Section doubles tournament at Bay Club Courtside in Los Gatos on Tuesday.

Lee and Phillips, the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League doubles champion, lost 6-0, 6-0 to No. 2 seed Sophie Hernandez and Olivia Guo of Harker.

Women’s soccer

Seahawks qualify for NorCal playoffs: Cabrillo College (10-2-5) was awarded the No. 6 seed for the CCCAA NorCal Regional tournament. The Seahawks will host a first round match against No. 11 Taft (15-5-1) on Saturday.

Cabrillo, champion of the Coast Conference South Division, will play a Cougars team that placed third in the Central Valley Conference. Kickoff is at 7pm.

NBA G League

Salt Lake City 104, Santa Cruz 102

The Santa Cruz Warriors lost a heartbreaker in the final seconds of regulation against the Salt Lake City Stars on Wednesday night. 

Warriors forward Axel Toupane finished with a team-high 24 points and ten rebounds. But it wasn’t enough as the Stars took their first lead of the second half with 0.06 seconds left to win their first game of the Showcase Cup.  

Golden State Warriors two-way guard Jeff Dowtin Jr. added 17 points and eight rebounds. Quinndary Weatherspoon made his debut after returning from injury and scored 13 points off the bench for Santa Cruz.

The Warriors went on a 21-0 run during the second quarter and they built an 11-point lead, 61-50, going into halftime. Toupane had 18 points (6-10 FG) and seven rebounds in the first half.

Salt Lake City opened the second half strong and cut the lead to one-point, 67-66, to force a Santa Cruz timeout. Santa Cruz held on to the lead until the final two minutes of regulation when the Stars tied the game at 100-all with 1:13 to play. 

The Stars had three players on assignment from the Utah Jazz—Udoka Azubuike, Jared Butler, and Elijah Hughes. Butler led all scorers with 30 points and added six rebounds.

Oklahoma City 85, Santa Cruz 71

Santa Cruz Warriors forward Jordan Bell had a big first half but it wasn’t enough in a loss against the Oklahoma City Blue on Sunday. 

Bell had 10 points and nine rebounds to help the Sea Dubs go into halftime with a one-point lead. But the Blue (3-1) held the Warriors to a franchise-record-low of 71 points.

Bell had 12 points and 16 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. Golden State Warriors two-way guard Jeff Dowtin Jr. tallied 13 points and three assists. 

Santa Cruz forward Axel Toupane had a team-high 16 points and guard Eddie Stansberry added 11 points off the bench.  

The Blue opened the second half on an 8-0 run and had all the momentum to hold the Warriors to a franchise-record-low of six points in the third quarter. 

Oklahoma City entered the final quarter with a 17-point lead, 66-49, and held on to split the weekend series with the Warriors, earning their third win of the season.

The Blue had three players on assignment: Vít Krejčí, Théo Maledon and Tre Mann. Mann led OKC with 18 points. Center D.J. Wilson added 13 points and 18 rebounds.

Bell named to USA’s qualifying roster 

Santa Cruz Warriors forward Jordan Bell was named to the November 2021 USA Basketball Men’s World Cup qualifying roster. The 12-man roster will train Nov. 20-25 at the University of Houston.

Bell has started the first four games for Santa Cruz during the NBA G League Showcase Cup. He has averaged 10.8 points and 11.3 rebounds in 25.9 minutes played.

The USA squad will participate in the first competition window of the 2021-23 FIBA World Cup Qualifying games. The games will be played in a bubble format in Chihuahua, Mexico. 

USA will face Cuba on Nov. 28 and will meet host Mexico on Nov. 29.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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