Eagles make history, earn redemption with CIF-SS title

Photo RUSD:  The Eisenhower High School girls basketball team celebrates after claiming the CIF-Southern Section Division 2A title on June 10. The Eagles put on a dominant performance with a 75-53 victory again Paloma Valley in Menifee to capture the program's first title.

The Eisenhower High School girls basketball team made history by claiming the CIF-Southern Section Division 2A title on June 10.

The Eagles topped Paloma Valley 75-53 in Menifee for the first girls basketball title in school history. 

After falling short in overtime in the title game a year ago, Eisenhower coach Antonio Quintero called this season the “Road to Redemption.” In front of Eisenhower fans and Rialto Unified School District staff, including Superintendent Dr. Cuauhtémoc Avila, the Eagles left no doubts in the championship game, running out to a 36-point lead by the fourth quarter. 

“On behalf of the Rialto Unified School District Board of Education, we all congratulate the Eisenhower High School girls basketball team for their exceptional championship run,” Dr. Avila said. “It was wonderful to have the ability to attend the championship game and celebrate with our Eagle fans. Our student-athletes worked very hard for this championship. The entire education community in the RUSD is proud of them. Go Eagles.”

Senior Briana Lizardi paced the Eagles with 27 points while shooting 4 of 7 from beyond the arc against the Wildcats. She also grabbed nine rebounds. Sophomore Sa’lah Hemingway added a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds, and junior Kamaya Middleton chipped in with 14 points and seven rebounds. 

“I feel like the hard work that we’ve been putting in over the last couple of years paid off,” Quintero said. “We are excited. It was a great experience.”

With the victory, Eisenhower (11-1) advanced to the CIF Division 2AA Southern California Girls Basketball Championships. The Eagles opened the tournament with a home game against Orcutt Academy on June 15.

“As an alumnus of Eisenhower, it’s nice to see the legacy of excellence continues in athletics,” Eisenhower Principal Mr. Frank Camacho said. “These girls are amazing. The whole community is very proud. The girls showed so much resilience and a strong mindset to win this championship. They went from possibly not having a season to playing without fans at first to playing for the title and dominating in the championship game. The whole time they were committed to just playing basketball. Their determination showed the whole year.” 

The Eagles got off to a slow start but quickly turned the game around. They didn’t score their first point until more than halfway through the first quarter and trailed 14-12 after that first frame. 

“We knew they had a little cool run, but we knew we’d be able to get ours,” Quintero said.

And the Eagles did just that. They took a 15-14 lead early in the second quarter. They took complete control of the game with a 17-0 run, which helped them to a 36-21 lead at halftime. Eisenhower outscored the Wildcats 46-14 combined in the second and third quarters. 

Eisenhower fell just short of the title a year ago, losing in overtime 66-62 to Woodrow Wilson in the CIF-SS Division 3A title game. But as their championship redemption neared, the Eagles stayed focused until the game ended. 

“I didn’t see them change in terms of on the court, like celebrating more after a shot or after a stop,” Quintero said. “They weren’t playing as if we got it in the bag. I don’t even know if they knew we were up by 36. I don’t think it affected us. I think they were just playing basketball.”

And when the final buzzer rang, they could finally storm the court to celebrate, redemption and a CIF-SS championship trophy in hand.