Sacramento High's Ayanna Edwards didn't score her first points in Saturday's Sac-Joaquin Section Division II girls basketball championship game against rival Florin until 47 seconds remained.
But the 6-foot-4 junior, nicknamed "Shaq" for her imposing size and athleticism, was a huge factor in the top-seeded Dragons' 48-37 win over No. 6 Florin at Sleep Train Arena.
Edwards had 11 rebounds and seven blocks and altered enough Panthers shots to keep the Dragons comfortably ahead from the start.
Junior Chaya Durr had a career-high 27 points, and junior point guard Zonyia Cormier added nine points and two steals for Sacramento (27-4).
The Dragons won their third consecutive section title (the previous two at D-III) and are likely headed for the new CIF Northern California Open Division playoffs this week.
Daijah Joe-Smith had 17 points and nine rebounds, and Dalayna Sampton had seven points and 10 rebounds for Florin (22-9). The Dragons' Metro Conference rival was a surprise finalist after upsetting No. 2 McNair of Stockton 44-41 in Thursday's semifinals. Florin also advances to the NorCals.
Edwards, a three-year varsity player, finished with two points and took only four shots. She also stopped a 10-0 Florin run early in the fourth quarter by blocking a shot, leading to a Durr breakaway layup and a 39-24 lead.
"She truly dominated," Sacramento coach Michele Massari said. "She's listed with seven blocks (by the official scorekeeper), but I think she had more than that. They were afraid to really go at her until the end."
Even though she had a marvelous game, Edwards didn't escape the demanding Massari's wrath midway through the fourth quarter, when she started limping after bumping knees with a Florin player.
"Stop limping or you're coming out," Massari yelled across the court.
The highly recruited Edwards wasn't chagrined. She knows Massari wants only her best effort.
"I tore my patella tendon in my left knee during the summer," she said. "I've rehabbed it, but sometimes, if you hit it right, it cramps up and is painful. I just have to shake it off. I'll get some Icy Hot, and I'll be fine. I'm not done anytime soon."
Edwards, who Massari calls "a big, soft teddy bear," was going to be the Dragons' section sportsmanship recipient, an award given to a player from each team after the championship game.
But her competitiveness got her into trouble.
She was disqualified from consideration, per section rules, when she knocked down Joe-Smith trying to go for a block late. The referee's flagrant-foul decision came after Joe-Smith, who took several seconds to climb back to her feet, exchanged friendly hand slaps with Edwards.
"I truly didn't mean to knock her down," Edwards said. "I respect Daijah a lot, but we're both competitive players on the court. I'd never purposely try to hurt someone because I love basketball too much, and that's disrespecting the game."