Vista Murrieta's Alexis Rivas takes a shot in the first half. The Vista Murrieta Broncos defeated Long Beach Millikan 73-69 in its Southern California regional quarterfinal girls basketball playoff game.
MURRIETA For the first time in the Valley’s history, a girls basketball team is heading to the CIF Southern California regional semifinals.
Vista Murrieta held off a late charge by Long Beach Millikan to prevail, 73-69, Saturday night in the Division I quarterfinals.
On Tuesday, the Broncos (27-6) travel to Moreno Valley Canyon Springs where they will rematch the Southern Section Division IA champion that knocked thenm out of the semifinals on Feb. 26.
Vista Murrieta’s usual standouts rose to the occasion versus Millikan (27-5).
Senior Serafina Maulupe had a game-high 28 points, seven rebounds and five assists. With the Broncos leading by a razor thin 67-66 margin with 90 seconds left, Maulupe made a determined drive to the basket, which resulted in a two-point layup that proved to be the difference.
On the play though, Maulupe was pushed from behind and landed hard on her hip as she hit the hardwood floor.
“Serafina just plays the game so darn hard, she is going to get hurt,” Broncos coach Chris Jones said. “She is going to dive into bleachers, dive onto the floor. She is just beat up and bruised. She’s OK. She’s sore. She has been waiting a long time for this. She will be ready to go.”
Vista Murrieta’s fabulous freshmen, Jaelyn Brown and Brittney Reed, controlled the paint as the pair typically has this year. Brown grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds while Reed had eight rebounds as Vista Murrieta was able to limit Millikan’s second-chance opportunities to a minimum. A two-to-one rebounding margin was a key factor in Vista Murrieta soaring to an 11-point advantage at one point in the second quarter.
“We really had to get dirty and just box out because almost all of them were running after the boards, getting boards,” Brown said. “We just had to control them and get them out of the paint.”
Although Brown and Reed were effective, both had their bouts with foul trouble. Reed fouled out of the game with 5:44 to play.
Starting guard Yuendie Guridi also missed a good portion of the game due to injury.
In their absence, reserves Leitasi Cravens and Tatiana Navarro were able to keep the Broncos’ momentum going.
“Those girls held down the fort,” Millikan coach Lorene Morgan said. “Definitely, that whole team should be very proud of the people coming off the bench. “
Cravens scored two pivotal field goals in the fourth quarter, while Navarro sank a pair of long-distance shots. Cravens and Navarro each had four rebounds in limited time.
“I’m very happy how they kept their composure,” Maulupe said. “They knew what to do. They were smart with the ball every time they got it. They didn’t rush into their shots.”
Alexis Rivas chipped in with tough defense inside the key. Rivas scored eight points and tied for the team-lead with five assists.
With a confident bench complementing Maulupe and the freshman tandem, Vista Murrieta is riding on a high note heading into Tuesday’s showdown versus a deep and fierce Canyon Springs squad that brings size and athleticism to the table.
“We just stayed composed and worked as a team,” Rivas said. “We’re more than confident right now.”