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Girls basketball: Marin Catholic holds off Redwood, wins third consecutive MCAL title

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With seconds remaining in the MCAL girls basketball playoff final Saturday night, Marin Catholic High girls basketball coach Ashley Saia substituted for senior guard Madie Dayton to get the victory party started.

The Wildcats were about to polish off their third consecutive league championship and 56th straight regular-season and playoff victory over MCAL opponents. Saia’s excitement and appreciation simply overflowed as she and Dayton intensely exchanged high-fives.

The top-seeded Wildcats completed another season sweep of MCAL foes with a 56-46 win over second-seeded Redwood at Terra Linda High.

“Madie Dayton was off the charts tonight,” said Saia. “Madie came out and had a really standout game for us in a time when we needed her to knock down shots. I’m happy for everybody but I’m happy for her that in such a big game, she really showed up for us. Tonight was a perfect night for her to get that recognition.”

Dayton and Cecily Hadd led the Wildcats with 15 points each. Izzy McFadden added 12. Redwood’s Maya Saibel scored a team-high 15 points.

Marin Catholic (18-10) and Redwood (20-8) are expected to earn first-round home games when the North Coast Section brackets are announced Sunday.

It’s hard to believe that the Marin Catholic seniors have never lost a game to an MCAL team. The Wildcats’ streak started during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season when Dayton was a freshman.

“I’m just really proud that in my whole high school experience we’ve never lost an MCAL game,” said Dayton, who will play at Wesleyan University next year. “We’re all just a family. We all want the best for each other. It’s really selfless. We want everyone to play their best.”

Redwood seemed poised to claw back into the game several times but Marin Catholic always answered. The Giants’ Kitty White drilled a 3-pointer to pull Redwood to within 45-38 with 6:09 remaining only to see Dayton score back-to-back buckets, including a trey, for a 50-38 cushion that proved insurmountable.

In the second quarter, Redwood’s Ainsley Gallagher knocked down a 3-pointer to pull the Giants within 26-23 with 3:25 left in the half. The Wildcats closed the period strong as Hadd converted a steal into a layup, McFadden scored on an inbounds play, and Hadd drove inside to push MC’s lead to 32-23.

“We really rely on our defense,” said Saia. “We were able to hold them off until we got our offense going again. Our defense created some of that offense — going back to our calling card of getting stops was what helped us hold them off.”

Redwood was making its first trip to the MCAL finals since 2020 when it won the league title. In the first meeting against Marin Catholic this season, the Giants were humbled 51-34. Their second engagement proved to be a much better game, a fact not lost on Redwood coach Zach Borello.

“It was a really good basketball game,” said Borello. “It’s what it’s all about — the MCAL championship being a spectacle and putting on a show — putting girls on a pedestal and saying look what we have. We have really good basketball in the county. I couldn’t be more proud of my group.”

Besides Saibel, the Giants got nine points from Ru Todd and eight from Ainsley Gallagher. Borello praised the Gallagher twins, juniors Ainsley and Molly.

“They played super hard,” said Borello. “They are scrappy. They make us play so hard.”

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