Birmingham defeats Westchester for City Section girls’ Open Division title

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In a matchup that was every bit as good as advertised, Birmingham and Westchester battled on even terms until the final minute, but the top-seeded Patriots seized the moment — and their second City Section Open Division girls’ basketball title in three years — with a 55-50 victory Saturday night at Pasadena City College.

After Comets guard Reign Waugh made a jumper in the lane to tie it 48-48 with 1:14 left, Birmingham’s Niya Johnson was fouled and made the second of two free throws to give her team a one-point lead with 58 seconds left. On Westchester’s ensuing possession, Waugh was fouled but missed both free throws, and DeeDee Berry passed to Lili Martinez for a layup to put Birmingham up 51-48 with 31 seconds remaining.

Serenity Johnson dribbled the length of the court but missed a layup and Mariah Blake committed her fifth foul trying to keep Nat Lopez from starting a fast break. Lopez stepped to the line and calmly sank both shots to make it a five-point game with 19 seconds left. After an intentional foul, she iced the victory with two more free throws.

Westchester’s Serenity Johnson shoots over Birmingham defender Zoee Mitchell.

Westchester’s Serenity Johnson, left, shoots over Birmingham defender Zoee Mitchell in the first half Saturday.

(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

“I spent countless hours off the court for that very situation,” Lopez said after leading the Patriots (24-6) to their 12th straight win with 13 points, including seven of eight from the line. “Getting up after I got fouled, my teammates hugged me and that centered me and got me focused. We won because we stuck together. Since summer weight room, we knew we had it in us.”

Westchester led by two points after one quarter, Birmingham led by one point at halftime and it was tied 36-36 going into the fourth quarter.

“We practiced all week for this and knew what they were going to do,” said Martinez, who scored eight points. “We concentrated mainly on No. 2 [Blake] and at the end we concentrated on defense. We keep our heads up and stay positive with each other. We’ve done that all year.”

Birmingham received the balanced scoring it prefers. Annette Jones had 10 points, Berry had nine points on three three-pointers, and Sammy Velasquez and Zoee Mitchell each added six for the Patriots, who won the Division III title in 2010 and the Open Division crown in 2022.

Waugh scored 17 points, Savannah Myles had 12 and Blake added nine for the second-seeded Comets (22-6), who were playing in their third consecutive final and were seeking their sixth City title.

Division III championship

Wilmington Banning players celebrate after defeating Bernstein.

Wilmington Banning players celebrate after defeating Bernstein 53-24 to win the City Section Division III championship Saturday.

(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

Wilmington Banning 53, Bernstein 24 — Alina Argueta and Savanna Price each scored 12 points for the Pilots (16-10), who raced to a 20-3 lead in the first eight and a half minutes. Sara Gonzales hit a three-pointer to give Banning a 40-19 lead at the end of the third quarter. The Pilots avenged a one-point defeat in December. Odali Rivera had nine points for the Dragons (21-9) in their first finals appearance.

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