Labeling the Academic Athletic Association girls’ basketball championship a David-versus-Goliath matchup might be underselling the history of both programs in the title game.
The difference between top-seeded Lowell and third-seeded Galileo, in terms of winning league titles, is stark.
In coach Aki Kuwada’s eighth season, the Cardinals are seeking their seventh title during that span and their fourth straight. Lowell has also dominated AAA competition this season, outscoring opponents by an average of 35.2 points per game en route to an undefeated league season, including a 61-26 win over Galileo in their last meeting on Jan. 29. The Cardinals have also won 39 straight games against AAA opponents, dating back to 2011.
“It’s been a great ride and it’s very satisfying,” Kuwada said.
Galileo, on the opposite end of the spectrum, hasn’t been in a AAA championship game since 1984, when the Lions lost to a powerhouse Wilson squad. Galileo also only has a single AAA title, in 1981, while Lowell has 16 girls’ basketball championships, the highest total in the San Francisco Section.
The second regular-season meeting with Lowell may have been disastrous for Galileo, but it was their first that gives the Lions hope.
On their home court, Galileo had the Cardinals on the ropes in the second game of the league season on Jan. 11.
Galileo led after three quarters, but ended up losing 46-41. For the rest of the regular season, no other AAA team lost by less than 30 points to Lowell, although Balboa played the Cardinals relatively close in the league semifinals on Tuesday (a 60-42 margin).
In the other semifinal matchup, Galileo just held off Washington 56-53, but committed 20 turnovers, a number that will not lead to a victory over Lowell if duplicated.
“The odds are 100-1, but I’ll put a dollar down on that,” Galileo coach Don Papa said.
“We’re going to have to limit turnovers, make some outside shots and mix things up on defense. The odds are long, but sometimes on any given day, you might get something. But we’re here. We’re in the big show and that’s what I like.”
Galileo also faces matchup problems with size and depth.
Lowell’s senior frontcourt trio of Lorna Tu’ufuli, Taylor Sui and Hana Murphy are all conservatively listed at 5-foot-9, while Galileo regularly starts four guards.
Tu’ufuli may have scored 23 points in Lowell’s semifinal win over Balboa, but the Cardinals have largely been tremendously balanced offensively. Tu’ufuli, who was the AAA MVP in her sophomore year, is Lowell’s leading scorer, but only averages 8.9 points, to go along with 8.5 rebounds. Sui is right behind her, averaging 8.2 points, while senior guard Katarina Lum, last season’s AAA MVP, is third at 7.9 per.
“What we have to make sure of is to not get complacent,” Kuwada said. “In [this] game, I’ve got to convince the girls that they have to play like that first game, when we were losing and had to come back.”