With Wednesday’s 12-5 victory over Foothill, No. 1 St. Margaret’s finished the regular season undefeated in Orange County. In this appetizer to the anticipated main course in the OC Final Four, star Tartan Niki Miles closed her junior campaign with a dominating performance, as she individually matched the entire offensive output of her opponents.
The early game was an even, back-and-forth match, with Foothill’s Brooke Williams opening scoring early on a free position just a minute into the game. St. Margaret’s tied it up minutes later on the fast break, as junior Maddie Barkate found Jordan Miles for the strong finish on the move.
After some back and forth, the teams then exchanged another pair of goals: Williams dipped under three crashing defenders and dunked the ball, and Niki Miles scored her first of five from a free position on the next possession.
From there, St. Margaret’s domination on the draw echoed their play up and down the field. Their buzz-saw ride earned a number of turnovers in transition. The Knights attack could not find the soft spot in the signature Tartan zone, and on-ball defenders forced difficult shots that senior goalie Ellie Jones was able to read and block. Foothill would not score another goal until late in the second half.
Meanwhile, on the offensive end, St. Margaret’s was patient and methodical from the set and lethal from the fast break on those rare occasions when Foothill faltered in transition.
To take a lead that the Tartans would not relinquish, junior Campbell Case accepted a feed from freshman Jordan Miles in an unsettled play off the draw. St. Margaret’s netted four more before the halftime break: two from Barkate (one on a long, hard lefty shot) and two from Niki Miles.
At the half, St. Margaret’s was up, 7-2.
The better part of the second half was a continuation of Tartans dominance. Although Foothill’s team defense stood strong, repeatedly repelling the relentless attack, and senior Becca Nailon held her own in the cage with a number of outstanding saves, the St. Margaret’s offense was too potent to be shut down entirely.
In a play that defined the game, Niki Miles opened the second-half scoring by throwing a beautiful fake flip pass to shake two defenders and drove to the cage. Minutes later, she took advantage of a momentary defensive lapse to put the Tartans up by seven. Barkate followed by pocketing a nice shot off a sharp re-attack.
Foothill stopped the bleeding with a beautiful play that went from Ava Brand low to Lauren Kilger high, back to Brand low, and into the 8-meter for a cutting Williams, who received and scored. But Case answered to keep the lead at eight. The teams continued the exchange to close out the game, with the Knights goals coming from Brand and Williams and one more from Case for the Tartans.