She heard the shrill screech of the buzzer, and Ontario Christian’s Chloe Briggs plopped on the hardwood, staring up at the gymnasium ceiling as if searching for answers that weren’t there.
Three years in a row.
Her freshman year, it was in Division 4-AA, where her Knights fell to Menifee Paloma Valley in the Southern Section championship game. Her sophomore year, it was Division 3-AA, where Ontario Christian lost by seven to Newport Beach Sage Hill in another title game. And her junior year, it was Division 2-A, losing out on another Southern Section title with a gut-wrenching four-point loss to Corona Santiago.
And that last year stung the most, Briggs in shock after the clock hit zeroes, the University of Washington commit unable to fathom that she’d come oh-so-tantalizingly-close again. For another end-of-season letdown. She stayed at home for a couple weeks, nursing her wounds.
“It’s just the worst feeling in the whole world,” Briggs said.
Briggs is a singular, heliocentric talent unlike few others in Southern Section girls’ basketball. As a freshman, she scored 1,216 points, breaking Cheryl Miller’s Southern Section record while at Riverside Poly for most points in a single season. Briggs entered this season about 800 points away, according to coach Matt Tumambing, from becoming the all-time leading scorer in section girls’ hoops history.
Yet the thing she wants, the thing she craves, is that moment of championship-game celebration that’s escaped her in an otherwise star-studded career at Ontario Christian.
“Just the heartache she’s experienced over the last three years,” Tumambing said, “I don’t know if any high school girl has ever experienced what she has.”
Almost every day, the moments replay themselves in her head. Tormenting her.
That sophomore-year loss to Sage Hill, she struggled in the fourth quarter, missing a couple shots.
What if those had fallen?
That junior-year loss to Santiago, she went 2 of 10 from three-point range, she remembered.
What if she had made just two more.
And so, after the sadness waned, she got herself back in the gym. Thus far as a senior, she has pushed Ontario Christian to a 6-2 record, the figurehead of a Knights team that loves to swing the ball and bomb away from distance.
She’s backed by Dejah Saldivar, a junior who Tumambing called “one of the best shooters in the country,” and Anaheim Esperanza transfer and ball-hawk Julia Lavigne.
“We’re a lot more well-rounded than we have been in the past,” Briggs said.