Seton Catholic Prep won the 2021 AIA girls basketball 4A state championship 70-62 over Salpointe Catholic on Saturday. The title is the school’s third in the last four years, and 12th total under coach Karen Self.
Despite all the success she’s had before, Self said this championship is special because she wasn’t sure there would even be a season to begin with due to COVID-19.
“Well, I think they’re all different, you know, and every season has its own challenges and differences,” Self said. “This (year) in particular, I felt for my seniors when they were faced with having their season cancelled, and then to be able to finish it with a state championship just feels so appropriate for them, because we were faced with so much uncertainty.”
Senior Amanda Barcello led the Sentinels with 22 points in the win, but Self said Barcello’s offensive rebounds in the final minutes were her biggest contribution.
“Amanda down the stretch, those O-boards off the missed free throws literally saved us,” Self said. “If you don’t make free throws, you can’t win games, and we made a lot, but the ones we missed, Amanda corralled. She came up with three huge O-boards down the stretch that were absolute difference-makers.”
Barcello credited her teammates for making the win possible.
“There’s Sasha (Daniel), who’s just gritty. From the beginning of the game to the end of the game, she’s always getting those tips, those steals, all those hustle plays that we need,” Barcello said. “Then there’s Lexi (McNabb), hitting those 3’s, getting what we needed, those really clutch shots… we couldn’t do this without them.”
There were several points throughout the game where it looked as though Seton was beginning to pull away, but the Lancers kept clawing back.
Free throws proved to be especially critical, with Salpointe making 17 of 19 shots from the line.
“We definitely let them hit some clutch shots which brought them back in the game,” Barcello said. “The fouls were killing us, but we just tried our best to maintain good position, maintain good rotation… but our main goal was just to keep them from shooting 3-pointers because that’s what was hurting us (the most).”
After playing for Self for four years and winning three state championships together, Barcello struggled to find the right words when talking about her coach.
She also mentioned former Seton assistant coach Tiffany Tate, who passed away in 2018, as an inspiration.
“I really can’t describe it, it’s such a good feeling knowing that I put in four years of work with Karen, and this is kind of my way of giving back to her… she’s just a hell of a coach,” Barcello said. “I’ve always done this for our coach who passed away, Tiff Tate, I know she’s watching down from heaven, but being a senior and a leader on this team… I just wanted to let every single one of (our players) know that they had the fight in them to win this.”
Through all the uncertainty that COVID-19 brought along with it, Barcello said she was determined to end her high school career on a good note.
“It definitely was kind of like a roller coaster of a ride, not knowing if we were going to have (a season), having one, and then just battling through the season,” Barcello said. “As a senior, I’m just absolutely thrilled… I wanted to put everything I had out on the floor, and I wasn’t going to leave without that gold ball (trophy).”