Mia Tomatis-Martinez led all scorers with 18 points. | Credit: Lily Chubb

Ellie Monson inbounded the ball with 3.5 seconds left and got a quick pass back from Michelle Arellanes for a game-winning attempt, but was swarmed by Del Norte defenders under the basket as the final buzzer sounded.

No foul was called and the Royals suffered a 52-51 loss to Del Norte of San Diego in the Santa Barbara High School Tournament of Champions Green-Division Championship on Thursday night at JR Richards gymnasium.

San Marcos finished in second place in the Santa Barbara High School Tournament of Champions Green Division. | Credit: Lily Chubb

“You don’t always get the call that you want to get at the time that you want to get them,” said San Marcos coach Tiffany Simms. “Sometimes those are the toughest games to lose.”

The Royals led 35-30 at halftime, but Del Norte took control in the second half as leading scorer Bailey Barnhard began to find her rhythm after a slow first half.

The Nighthawks cut their deficit to 39-38 on a long two-pointer by Barnhard midway through the third quarter, and San Marcos was clinging to a 42-40 lead going into the fourth quarter.

San Marcos took a 45-42 lead midway through the fourth quarter on a free throw by Riley Welch, but Del Norte immediately responded with an 8-0 run with back-to-back three-pointers by Kloe Taylor and Kiana Cadigan as well as a baseline jumper by Calissa Tyrrell with just over two minutes remaining that put the Nighthawks ahead 50-45.

Arellanes dribbled downcourt on the ensuing San Marcos possession and pulled up for a deep three-pointer with 1:50 remaining that cut the San Marcos deficit to 50-48.

A driving layup by Arellanes tied the score at 50-50 with 1:30 remaining, but Barnhard delivered for Del Norte again with a basket inside with 1:10 remaining that put the Nighthawks ahead 52-50.

Monson was fouled and made one of two free throws with just under a minute remaining, bringing the score to 52-51. The Royals got the stop they needed to set up the final sequence but could not pull ahead in the final moments.

“My girls keep playing great defensive and disciplined games,” Simms said. “As a defensive-minded coach you can’t ask for anything better than that.”

San Marcos guard Mia Martinez-Tomatis led all scorers with 18 points. Arellanes finished with 17 points.

The Royals will resume Channel League play on Tuesday, January 3, against rival Dos Pueblos.

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