Junior Lauren Rantz buried a three-pointer with three seconds left to give Castilleja a 48-45 victory over Mercy-Burlingame, completing the largest comeback in the school's basketball history while giving the Gators their fourth league title in nine seasons.
Castilleja trailed by as many as 19 in the first half as the Gators (8-2, 13-11) managed only a season-low seven points over the first two frames. Castilleja stormed out of the gate in the second half at College of San Mateo and outscored the Crusaders, 12-3, to open the third -- led by junior Olivia Nicholls, who tallied seven of her 11 points in the period.
Trailing by seven entering the fourth, the Gators continued to make up ground before tying the score at 38 with five minutes left to play. Mercy scored a pair of buckets to push its lead back to four, but the Gators answered with a bucket and a three-pointer from freshman Paige Vermeer to give the Gators their first lead with 1:40 remaining.
Mercy then split a pair of free throws to re-tie the game before Rantz hit a layup to put the Gators up two with 40 seconds left. After coming up with a quick defensive stop, the Gators failed to extend their lead and ended up fouling Mercy on a loose ball. Mercy made both free throws to once again tie the game with 26 seconds left.
Out of time outs, the Gators wisely dribbled down the clock to ensure the final shot of the contest. Freshman Yasmeen Afifi then found Rantz at the top of the key as she caught, turned and drilled the third three-point field goal of her career. Mercy called its final timeout with three seconds remaining, but was unable to get off a game-tying attempt as Vermeer disrupted the inbounds pass long enough for the clock to expire.
The Gators were led by Rantz, who scored a game-high 15 points, 13 coming in the second half. Rantz also collected team-highs of 11 rebounds and seven blocks. Vermeer and Nicholls added 12 and 11 points, respectively, all coming after halftime while Afifi led Castilleja with a career-high four dishes to go along with eight boards. Castilleja shot 54 percent from the field in the second half and committed only one turnover.
With the victory, the Gators assured themselves of moving back to the Foothill Division of the WBAL next season as well as home court for the league playoffs play-in game on Monday. Castilleja will host the loser of the Harker-King's Academy game being played Friday.