SACRAMENTO -- Late in the third quarter of a Northern California Regional Division II Championship game at Sleep Train Arena Saturday morning, St. Francis High girls basketball coach Brian Harrigan had some harsh words for Shelbi Aimonetti as she made her way to the bench.
The words, in a tough tone, brought tears to Aimonetti's eyes. But there was a message behind it all.
"I wanted her to believe in herself and I wanted her to believe in me and we would believe in each other," Harrigan said.
Aimonetti responded with a vengeance when she returned in the fourth. The 5-foot-8 senior guard drained a 3-pointer to start the fourth and then, moments later, hit a jumper that gave the Lancers an 18-point lead as they went on to post a 44-19 win over Lynbrook to claim the first NorCal title in school history.
"I just tried to control myself and keep my composure," Aimonetti said of her talk with Harrigan. "This is NorCals and I had to hit my shots. That 3-pointer was a big shot. I believed after that and then I hit my next shot."
Aimonetti scored a game-high 15 points — seven in the fourth quarter.
The top-seeded Lancers (24-8) advance to the California Interscholastic Federation title game, facing Lynwood Saturday at 2 p.m. at Sleep Train Arena.
No. 3 Lynbrook's historic season comes to an end under first-year coach Cynthia Ting. The Vikings (25-6), who finished tied for first in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division, scored the fewest points in a NorCal title game. They also tied the record for fewest points scored in a regional title game. In 2003, Mission Prep-San Luis Obispo beat Central Valley Christian 56-19.
"Overall, I'm really proud of them," Ting said. "They poured their hearts and souls into each game. This isn't a good feeling, but this is a great team."
Lynbrook got seven points and nine rebounds from Sara Dysin. Teammate Jackie Hudepohl added four points and four rebounds.
"This sets the tone for next year," Ting said. "This lets the people see how much work it takes to get this far."
Lynbrook had trouble scoring all night. Chalk that up to a stingy St. Francis defense.
Lynbrook scored the game's first bucket, but the Lancers scored the next 14 and had a 14-2 lead with 6:35 left in the second quarter after a 3-pointer by Aimonetti. Lynbrook scored just nine points in the second half as St. Francis surged with 27.
"We hang our hats on our defense," Harrigan said.
Harrigan is no stranger to this venue. The former Sacred Heart Cathedral coach will be making his seventh trip to a state title game.
"I'm able to tell them about the atmosphere and to enjoy it," Harrigan said.
The Lancers took a commanding 38-16 on back-to-back buckets by Jennifer Lucian midway through the fourth quarter. Lucian finished with 12 points and six rebounds. Teammate Kate Hoey grabbed 11 rebounds and scored six points.
"I couldn't be any more proud," Harrigan said. "The team worked hard all season and they bought into a system."