Glendale Adventist basketball

Glendale Adventist Academy's Madison Federicci, in the middle, is surrounded by teammates and fans after beating St. Monica Academy in a CIF-SS Division VI girls' basketball quarterfinal playoff game on Thursday. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer) (February 27, 2014)

GLENDALE — Scoring eight of the final 10 points, the Glendale Adventist Academy girls’ basketball team continued the trend of underdogs, who have thrived in the upper half of the CIF Southern Section Division VI playoffs on Thursday evening.

The Liberty League at-large entry Cougars, who were seeded 13th, pulled away from scrappy 12th-seeded St. Monica Academy of Pasadena for a 40-34 victory that advanced the program to its first semifinal appearance since at least the mid-1990s.

With the victory, Glendale Adventist Academy (8-7), which finished seventh in the Liberty League, will face ninth-seeded host Shalhevet (18-3) of Los Angeles on Saturday for the right to move onto the following week’s CIF-SS divisional championships.

Regardless of who wins Saturday’s contest, a non-league champion will have survived out of the top portion of the bracket, as the No. 1, 4, 5 and 8 seeds all fell.

“For us late, it was just a matter of staying disciplined and playing good, solid defense,” Glendale Adventist Coach Joseph Naguit said. “We were rushing and not playing our type of basketball and that allowed St. Monica to stay with us for a good part of the game.”

Down, 34-32, with 1:40 remaining, the International League champion Crusaders (16-5) had three good looks at a potential game-tying basket, first on a jumper from senior Madeline Hagan that was missed and was rebounded by freshman Molly Hagan, who had two attempts from within 10 feet both rim out.

Finally, Glendale Adventist’s Isabella Naguit came out of a scrum inside the key with a rebound and led an attack the other way that finished with a skying layup from senior forward Madison Federici with 1:18 remaining that put the Cougars up, 36-32.

Federici’s score was followed by solid defense from her and sister Harley Federici that helped force a traveling call by the Crusaders eight seconds later.

The turnover coupled with a Madison Federici offensive rebound and put-back with 54 seconds left all of sudden gave Glendale Adventist a 38-32 lead.

Glendale Adventist eventually closed out St. Monica thanks to a blocked shot by Madison Federici of St. Monica’s Kayla Grimm with 42 seconds left that translated into a layup from Melissa Lopez off an assist from Madison Federici with 25 seconds remaining that put the Cougars ahead, 40-32.

“This win means the world to us,” said Madison Federici, who led her team with 14 points, 12 rebounds, six steals and two blocks. “We’re playing as a team and this has never happened to us. This is great.”

Very little separated the Cougars and Crusaders through the contest’s first 30 minutes.

Glendale Adventist led, 9-8, after one quarter and took a 21-19 lead at halftime after a jumper from Brittney Gregg thanks to an assist from Madison Federici with three seconds remaining.

The Cougars then scored the first bucket of the third quarter by Harley Federici before St. Monica responded with a 6-0 run to take a 25-23 lead with 4:27 remaining after a jumper from Grimm.

St. Monica led, 29-27, with 12 seconds remaining in the third after a 15-footer from Therese Boles.

However, Glendale Adventist again responded with a late shot, this time an 18-footer from Desiree Darrett as time expired to tie the game at 29.

“We had a lot of shots that just didn’t fall,” said St. Monica Coach Colleen Smith, whose program made its furthest postseason run in its five-year history. “I thought we hustled just as hard as Glendale Adventist and just came up a little short. I’m proud of my team.”

One of the bigger issues was turnovers, as Glendale Adventist finished with 28, a few more than the 22 for the Crusaders.

Those turnovers helped St. Monica surge to a 31-29 lead with 7:30 left in the game after a basket from Molly Hagan.

Yet, Glendale Adventist took the lead for good behind a jumper from Madison Federici and then a three-pointer from just inserted Harley Federici (nine points and two steals), who picked up her fourth foul at the 5:07 mark in the third and didn’t return until 6:33 in the fourth.

St. Monica Academy was led in defeat by Hannah Acosta, who scored 11 points.

“This is incredible for this program,” Madison Federici said. “St. Monica is a good team, and we knew we had to box them out. For us, it was about heart and having enough to close out the game.”