Girls Team Closes Out Record Season

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

March 14, 2024

Morro Bay High School’s Girls’ Varsity Basketball Team poses for a team photo after the CIF Central Section Finals game hoisting the Second Place Plaque that will adorn the school’s trophy case. Pictured back row from left are: Coach Alex Engel, Coach Ashley Magday, Zoe Fitwater, Team Manager Stiffany Plenario, Violet Pace, Tailer Morrison, Fiona Durham, Georgie Wheeler, Taylen Robson, Coach Katy Conlin, and Coach John Teixeira. Front row from left: Parker Brigham, Emily Cordes, Maiya Massie, Naiah Zales, Rosie Martinez, and Shelby Taylor. Photo submitted

Morro Bay High School’s Girls’ Basketball Team closed out a record-breaking season with a second place finish in CIF and an appearance in the state tournament, cracking the upper echelon of California’s prep sports hoopsters for the first time in a quarter century.

Head Coach Alex Engel recounted the whirlwind season. “We ended up 24-8 overall, won the Sunset League Championship, made it to the CIF Central Section Championship, and then to the Second Round of State. It’s the most successful season we’ve had at MB in about 25 years.”

A League Title

The Lady Pirates ran away with the inaugural season of the Sunset League, posting an 8-2 record and qualifying for the Central Section CIF Tournament as a No. 2 seed. Naturally, the team took home several League Honors.

“We had six girls make the Sunset League ‘All League’ team,” Coach Engel said. “Senior Fiona Durham was named MVP of the league; seniors Tailer Morrison and Georgie Wheeler, and sophomore Violet Pace were named First Team All-League. Sophomore Zoe Fitzwater was named Second Team All-League, and freshman Taylen Robson was named Honorable Mention.”

A Deep CIF Run

The Lady Pirates continued their domination on the court into the playoffs, hosting three games for the local fans.

In CIF they defeated West High School, Reedley, then Roosevelt of Fresno, to make it to the Section Finals against top ranked, Bakersfield Christian, in a game played at Fresno’s cavernous Selland Arena. 

Bakersfield Christian won that contest, but Morro Bay’s great showing led them to a berth in the State Tournament and a chance at immortality.

A Statement at State

At the Div. III State Tournament, played in Sacramento, Morro Bay faced Rancho Cucamonga in the first round, scoring a decisive 49-28 win on the strong inside play of its trio of seniors. 

Morrison scored 19 points and pulled down 20 rebounds against Rancho Cucamonga. Wheeler had 14 points, and Durham had a monster game with 8 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks. Defensive strategy played a big part in a big win.

“We knew that Rancho wasn’t a great shooting team,” Coach Engel said, “so we played a zone and packed it in. The girls executed the game plan perfectly on defense and made them take a bunch of 3-pointers. They went 0 for 23 from the 3-point line.”

2nd Round Barnburner

The Lady Pirates’ second round game was one for the ages, as the team took an early lead, then fell behind, only to battle their was all the way back to a tie with time running out.

“The game was a back-and-forth affair,” Engel said. “We were up by seven at halftime and Granada Hills came back and went up by eight in the 4th quarter. We clawed back and tied the game with 30-seconds left.”

As the clock ran down, Morro Bay’s defense got caught out of position. “On the final defensive play,” Engel said, “we got mixed up on a back screen, and Granada Hills got a look for 3 but missed; unfortunately on the mix up both of our bigs were on the perimeter, which allowed their 6-foot 3-inch post to grab the rebound and score, while being fouled to make a 3-point play.”

Facing elimination, Morro Bay was forced to look for a 3-point shot, and Granada Hills was ready. “We got the ball back with 15 seconds left,” Coach Engel said, “but Granada Hills knew we needed a three and stayed out on the perimeter. We got a shot off, but it wasn’t a great look.”

The game ended in a 48-45 defeat. Individually, the seniors again led the way. Wheeler went five-of-10 from the 3-point line and had 17 points. Morrison added 16 points and 9 rebounds, and Durham had 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists.

A Record Season 

The girls ended the year 24-8. They won the Sunset League Championship; took second place in CIF Sections; and played into the Second Round at State. It was one of the best seasons in school history and the players left their marks on the school record books.

Sharpshooter, Wheeler, shattered the single season Morro Bay school record from the 3-point line with 111 buckets made on 36% shooting from beyond the arc. The previous record was 66. “She was ranked No. 1 in the Central Section for 3-pointers made,” Coach Engel said, “and according to Maxpreps Sports [a high school sports website] would be tied for eighth in the State of California this year.”

Morrison tied the school record for most blocked shots in a game with nine, a feat she did twice this year; and was also is second all time for blocks in a season with 75. She was also dominant on the boards. Morrison broke the school record for rebounds in a season with 377 and is ranked fifth all time for career rebounds at Morro Bay. “She broke the record for most rebounds in a game with 29 against Hanford earlier this year,” Coach Engel said.

Durham too crashed the boards at a record clip. Durham, became sixth all time for career rebounds at Morro Bay, he said.

And sophomore point guard, Fitwater, racked up 132 assists, an average of over four a game, the second highest total in school history. She also dished out 10 assists in one game, also the second best ever at MBHS.

They also set a number of team school records — most points in a season; most 3-pointers made in a season; most rebounds in a season; most blocked shots in a season; most assists in a season; and most blocks in a game.

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