SAN MARCOS With 5:15 to play Wednesday night, Mission Hills was trailing after the ninth lead change of the first round of the Southern California Regional girls basketball playoffs.
Fortunately for the newly crowned San Diego Section Division I champions, there was one lead change left.
Lauren Hecker’s layup with 55 seconds left gave the Grizzlies the lead for good en route to a 54-50 triumph over Alhambra Mark Keppel.
“We’re still playing and that’s all that counts,” said Hecker, a junior. “We’re made for championship plays. Even down 10 with two minutes to go, we make championship plays.”
The 13th consecutive victory puts the No. 8-seeded Grizzlies (23-8) into Saturday’s regional quarterfinals.
Defense and not the high-powered Mission Hills offense saved the day, holding Keppel (26-4) scoreless for the final 5:15 until Emily Chen’s 3-point shot at the buzzer.
The 9-0 run during the Aztecs’ dry spell — capped by two Hecker free throws for a team high 13 points — was helped along by two missed free throws by Sophia Song with 35.5 seconds to play.
Sophomore Madison Adams scored nine of her 11 points in the second half for Mission Hills. Roshell Lamug, who had 11 points at halftime for the Grizzlies, finished with 12. Freshman Khayla Rooks had 10.
“We got punched in the mouth in the first quarter and we had to respond,” Mission Hills coach Chris Kroesch said. “In the fourth quarter, our veterans took over. We got the job done defensively after they took us out of our game all night.”