The girls basketball team of St. Jerome School in Westchester captured its third Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) City Championship with a 30-24 victory over Our Lady of Lourdes of Boyle Heights at Staples Center Wednesday, February 28th.
It was the first CYO city title since 1998 for St. Jerome School, which finished the season with an overall record of 20-2.
The St. Jerome Lady Spartans team, composed of seventh- and eighth-graders 12 and 13 years old, earned the title in the 64-team CYO City Championship tournament in front of nearly 300 spectators. The Spartans team includes four seventh-graders and four eighth-graders.
The Spartans jumped out to a comfortable 21-4 lead at halftime after guards Kamille Kemp and Mallory Rawson led an aggressive defensive attack, but the Our Lady of Lourdes Lions were able to close the gap in the second half.
“Having played Our Lady in a preseason tournament, we knew their shooters would hit a hot streak,” said St. Jerome coach Mike Rawson, who has finished his fourth year as coach. “We had to play our game, break their press and run our offense.
“The ladies executed our game plan and I really have to give our girls a world of credit.”
St. Jerome faced a setback with less than eight minutes remaining in the game, when eighth-grade center Morgan Knox and seventh-grade guard Kimberly Willis collided with a Lion player, sending Knox out of the game to receive stitches.
Willis, who co-led the Spartans with ten points in the game, continued to play as Courtney Gaardsmore stepped in for Knox.
Willis’s sister, eighth-grade forward Christianna Willis, also led St. Jerome with ten points.
The Lions succeeded in cutting the deficit to four points late in the game, but St. Jerome managed to hold on with the help of substitute players Gilly Childs, Kayla Richards and Thalia Williams.
Rawson said he didn’t doubt that the Spartans would hang on for the win because they found a way to shut the Lions down in the end.
“The kids who came in off the bench believed in themselves and were ready to contribute,” Rawson said.
Two key free throws by Mallory Rawson sealed the victory for St. Jerome.
“We worked very hard all season and I’m just so happy to be a part of a championship team,” said Knox, who finished with six points and grabbed eight rebounds in the game.