BY TERRY MONAHAN
La Jolla Country Day, the No. 2 seed in the Open Division of the state regional playoffs, picked a really bad night to misfire from the free-throw line.
In the end, though, the Torreys hit two free throws at the end of the game to hold off No. 7 Santa Ana Mater Dei Catholic 53-45 in the opening round of play.
Jada Williams was 1 for 4 from the line but canned both charities with 26.8 seconds left to end any hopes the Monarchs (23-6) had of an upset.
Before Williams’ two shots, LJCD (25-2), the San Diego Section Open Division champion, was 10 for 24 for the game.
“Normally, we shoot about 80 percent as a team from the line,” Torreys coach Terri Bamford said. “That’s terrible. We’ll need to work on that before the next game.”
LJCD will host No. 3 Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, which defeated No. 6 Cathedral Catholic in the other quarterfinal game, in Saturday’s regional semifinals at 6 p.m.
Junior center Breya Cunningham, who battled foul trouble most of the game, led the winners with 20 points and nine rebounds.
Williams and Naomi Paganiban each scored nine points.
Soleil Montrose topped the Monarchs with 11 points and five rebounds, followed by Caia Elisaldez with 10 points and Nalami White, who led the team with a 15.8 average, added eight points.
“We stayed composed against their press,” Roberts said. “We didn’t wat to let them control us with the press, we wanted to control them.”
Mater Dei, which had trailed ever since losing the lead at 6-4, fought back to tie it at 43-43 on Emily Shaw’s 3-pointer with 3:28 to play.
Instead of seizing the momentum on Shaw’s basket, Mater Dei was outscored 10-2 down the stretch.
Sophomore Taj Roberts scored a layup with 2:50 to go, another with 2:31 to play and a third layup with 2:07 to go as part of a three-point play.
That outburst put the Torreys ahead 49-43.
“The first layup, we really needed that,” Roberts said. “I’d been letting the team down all night. It’s all about the timing on something like that.”
The Torreys missed two more free throws before Williams hit two to clinch a 17th straight victory.
“I knew I had to help break the tie with three minutes left,” Roberts said. “I was never worried about losing.”
The slow run to victory has the Torreys 13-0 at home this season.
They will host the semifinal game — the winner qualifies for the state championship game — with that home winning streak intact.
Monahan is a freelance writer.
No. 2 La Jolla Country Day 53, No. 7 Santa Ana Mater Dei 45