FONTANA Throughout her four-year high school basketball career at Vista Murrieta, there have been good times and lean times for Serafina Maulupe.
The best time — thus far — came in the final minute of what might have been the game of her life.
Maulupe scored nine of her-game high 21 points and had a key late steal in the final minute to lead visiting third-seed Vista Murrieta past sixth-seeded Fontana Miller, 61-54, in the CIF Southern Section Division I-A quarterfinals before a spirited crowd at A.B. Miller High School.
The Broncos (25-5) advanced to their first girls basketball semifinal in school history, where they’ll host second-seeded Moreno Valley Canyon Springs, an 80-51 winner over Ventura Buena on Saturday night, on Tuesday.
“I can’t even explain it,” Maulupe said. “(The feeling) is just indescribable. I’m so happy. I just want to jump through the roof right now.”
On a roster full of underclassmen, Maulupe has been the veteran leader all season. When called upon again Saturday night, she had the answers.
Vista Murrieta surged ahead in the second quarter, thanks to a late first-half stretch of nine consecutive points. The Broncos led 48-36 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter before Miller began trimming the deficit.
The Rebels closed to within one on senior Justice Rivera’s 3-pointer, and again with 1:07 left on Rivera’s two free throws.
Maulupe had already taken a more pro-active role in the second half. At that point, she took over the game.
Miller (23-5) simply couldn’t keep the ball away from her. She hit a finger-roll layup with 48 seconds remaining to extend a three-point lead to five. Then she stole a long inbound pass two possessions later, and as the Rebels tried to force the Broncos to the line as much as possible, they kept fouling Maulupe, who calmly sank five of six free-throw attempts in the final 24 seconds to secure the victory.
“We told her at halftime that there was going to be a point where we needed her to step up only offensively,” Broncos coach Chris Jones said, “and I think she did that.”
She was strangely quiet early on, scoring just three points by halftime. But her supporting cast gave her plenty of help — freshman forward Jaelyn Brown had 13 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter, fellow freshman Brittney Reed had 10 points and 13 rebounds, and sophomore Leitasi Cravens had a night to remember with 13 first-half points and eight rebounds overall.
“Yuendie (Curidi) did it once where she went over 20 points, Leitasi did it tonight, and Alexis (Rivas) did it one time with over 20,” Jones said. “So we have players that can contribute. It’s just that our top three are such explosive weapons that the others aren’t always called upon to do that.”