In the 40 years since Mira Mesa opened in 1976, girls basketball has struggled to find a championship flair.
Finally, the Marauders found it.
Led by a freshman, top-seeded Mira Mesa never trailed in posting a 56-48 victory over No. 2 Hilltop on Saturday to win the San Diego Section Division III championship at USD’s Jenny Craig Pavilion.
It’s the first time the Marauders (19-13) have claimed a section title.
“When I took this job three years ago, people told me we couldn’t win at Mira Mesa,” Marauders coach Lonnie Jones said. “Even when I was at San Diego, I thought there was talent here.
“The girls here just needed someone to believe in them.”
Arabella Norriss, a 5-foot-10 freshman, had a double-double with 19 points and 20 rebounds for Mira Mesa. She was the lone Marauder to score in double figures.
“I’m really emotional right now,” she said. “I can’t even explain how this feels.
“I wanted to go strong all day, not turn the ball over much, which I did a little. I thought we did pretty well.”
Hilltop (22-6) fell behind early thanks to foul trouble and turnovers, 27 by the end of the game.
The Lancers trailed by as much as 14, but sliced the deficit to 53-48 with 1:25 to go before the Marauders ran out the clock.
“That’s Mira Mesa basketball,” Jones said. “If it’s not ugly, I guess it’s not really Mira Mesa basketball. This is what we do.
“We’re the D-III champs. We’ll stick with that.”
Junior Breeana Gafare paced Hilltop with 20 points, six rebounds and four blocks despite having four fouls by the end of the game. Senior Brittany Gafare scored 10 points before fouling out.