Irvine Valley women's basketball coach Julie Hanks was worried Friday night after her team handily defeated Chaffey, 53-37, in the semifinals of the Irvine Valley Tournament.
She knew the Lasers had to face a very tough Pasadena City squad in the final on Saturday.
Irvine Valley was up for the challenge and then some.
Playing what Hanks called her team's best game of the season, Irvine Valley, ranked No. 5 in the state defeated No. 9 Pasadena City, 84-66, on Saturday in the championship game of the event.
It was the first time since 2009 that Irvine Valley had won its own event and third time overall in the 10-year history of the tournament.
Irvine Valley also improved its record to 9-1 on the season. It's only loss has been by one point in overtime to East LA, which is ranked No. 8 in the state.
Irvine Valley had four players score in double figures, led by tournament MVP Breanna Turner. The sophomore center was a force down low, finishing with 27 points and 21 rebounds.
The 21 overall boards tied an IVC program record for most in a game. She tied the mark set by Alexis Casillas last season.
Turner shot 12 of 17 from the field, 16 of her rebounds came in the second half and she also had two assists and one steal in 33 minutes.
"It was just a monster game," Hanks said. "I've never seen Breanna play better in the two years she's been here."
Mercado was also named to the all-tournament team after coming up with eight points and four assists as IVC pulled away in the second half after leading, 43-36, at halftime.
"Erika, Tara (Casey) or Erika (Mercado) could have been named all-tournament," Hanks said. "They all played great."
Casey had three straight games scoring in double figures.
And Kato hit three key three pointers and made another basket in the second half on Saturday.
Kato's points were part of a 18-4 IVC run that put the title game out of reach.
Pasadena City was within 59-51 with 12:55 left in the game after a basket by Regerina Baker. Kato answered with a basket to push the lead to 61-51. Turner made a layup and then finished a three-point play to make it 65-51 with 10:04 left.
Up 66-53, Kato nailed a three-pointer with 9:10 remaining to make it a 69-53 game. She made a second three-pointer in a row with 8:42 to play to put IVC ahead, 72-55.
After a layup by sophomore center Vanessa Rea gave Irvine Valley a 74-55 advantage, Kato drilled another three-pointer with 7:24 to go to push IVC's lead to 77-55. It was Irvine Valley's largest lead of the game.
Freshman guard Jordan Coleman and sophomore forward Conerie Brennan also played solid for IVC. Coleman, guarded Espinoza for most of the contest, and finished with eight points before fouling out late. Brennan chipped in four points, four rebounds and seven assists.
Irvine Valley shot 47.7 percent (31 of 65) from the field in the game. Pasadena City finished at 35.3 percent (24 of 68). IVC won the rebounding battle, 46-38. And the Lasers also had 23 assists to just 10 turnovers in the game.
"I learned a lot about this team this weekend," Hanks said. "We beat two other teams ranked in the top 10 in the state (No. 4 El Camino and No. 9 Pasadena City). Our players showed a lot of character. They were really up for whatever was thrown in front of them. They played big in big games."
Pasadena City, which saw its record slip to 6-3 overall, was led by Espinoza and Baker. Espinoza had 25 points, five rebounds and two assists. She went 10 of 12 from the free throw line.
Baker ended with 20 points, 15 rebounds and three assists.
Both players were named to the all-tournament team.
Irvine Valley Women's Tournament
Final-day results (Dec. 13)
Consolation final - El Camino def. Rio Hondo, 67-37
Third-place game - Long Beach City def. Chaffey, 55-43
Championship final: Irvine Valley def. Pasadena City, 84-66
MVP - Breanna Turner - Irvine Valley (27 points, 21 rebounds in title game. Averaged 14 points and 16 rebounds over three games)
Erika Mercado - Irvine Valley (11 points, 3 of 4 on three-pointers and 7 assists in title game)
Regerina Baker - Pasadena City (20 points and 15 rebounds in title game and also had a 22-point, 18-rebound effort in tournament)
Judith Espinoza - Pasadena City (25 points and 5 rebounds in title game)
Darshana Taafua - Long Beach City (22 points, 18 rebounds, 3 blocked shots and 4 steals in third-place game)
Chelsea Waddy-Blow - Chaffey (14 points and 18 rebounds in third-place game)
Nisja Bass - El Camino (7 points, 4 rebounds, 11 assists and 4 steals in consolation final)