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State title game Division 4 girls

Cardinal Newman (1) vs. Antelope Valley (1)

When: 10 a.m., March 26

Where: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento

TV: CSN will televise; check your cable provider for channel number


As the girls Division 4 state championship game is nearly upon us, consider these numbers:

Cardinal Newman is 30-5. Their opponent, Antelope Valley, is 30-2.

The Cardinals are seeded No. 1 in the northern division, the Antelopes No. 1 in the south.

Newman is ranked 23rd in the state. Antelope Valley is 54th.

The Antelopes have won 30 straight games. Newman’s last loss, on March 5 in the North Coast Section championship, was to Salesian Prep, which lost to Miramonte, the third-best team in the state which is playing for the Open Division state championship on Saturday.

So what does this all mean as Newman takes on the Antelopes at 10 a.m. Saturday in the title game at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento?

Probably not much, Cardinal Newman coach Monica Mertle might say.

Just go out and play the basketball you’ve played all year, she likely will be telling her team: the deadly 3-point shooting, your post players’ over-the-top inside game, your quick-handed ball handers.

Antelope Valley, a public school in Lancaster (Los Angeles County), is a school three times as large as Cardinal Newman. It also has a much more diverse student body, racially and economically, than the private Catholic school in north Santa Rosa.

Mertle put her girls right back to work after they beat Menlo School 51-32 Saturday at American Canyon High School in the NorCal final.

“After that, Monica gave us a day,” said freshman guard Avery Cargill. “She said, ‘OK, celebrate Sunday, but once you get back in the gym, you gotta focus.’ ”

And they have. This week, the team has practiced in Santa Rosa Junior College’s gym to help them get used to the larger environs.

Cargill said the noisy, fast-paced American Canyon atmosphere was a bit intimidating for the Cardinals.

Like Newman, the Antelopes are trying to write their names in their school’s record book.

In the five years Cardinal Newman has enrolled girls, the basketball team has improved steadily each year, all under Mertle’s leadership. Mertle was a junior on the 2002 Ursuline team – Newman’s former sister school – that won a section title.

If history has any bearing on the outcome, Antelope Valley has the advantage of being from the south. Teams from the southern division have won the past seven Division 4 state championships.

The last Northern California team to win was St. Patrick-St. Vincent of Vallejo when it eked out a 67-65 victory over La Jolla Country Day School in 2008.

Antelope Valley is known for its high-pressure defense and quick guards.

In their semifinal against La Cañada, the Antelopes scored 15 points off turnovers en route to a 66-51 victory.

“Our defense is really vicious. That’s really all we focus on,” the Antelopes’ Tylen Price told the Antelope Valley Press newspaper.

Price, a 5-11 guard, is the team’s leading scorer with 16 points per game, and is coach Deon Price’s daughter.

In the second quarter of that game, Antelope Valley’s full-court press turned a one-point lead into a 19-point advantage by halftime, forcing numerous La Cañada errors.

Newman will also have to find a way to handle 5-11 power forward/guard Savannah Sullivan, who averages 11 points a game, 6-3 post player Oriana Brown and the small-but-speedy guard Tyler Smith.

State title game Division 4 girls

Cardinal Newman (1) vs. Antelope Valley (1)

When: 10 a.m., March 26

Where: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento

TV: CSN will televise; check your cable provider for channel number