It will be hard to duplicate the excitement level of Tuesday’s San Diego Section Division II girls basketball semifinal game between second-seeded Bonita Vista and sixth-seeded Montgomery. The teams were never separated by more than six points the entire game and exchanged leads four times in the second half before the host Lady Barons finally pulled out a heart-stopping 58-56 win.Bonita Vista will do its best to rekindle that excitement in Saturday’s Division II championship game against top-seeded Imperial. Tip-off is 1:07 p.m. at the University of San Diego’s Jenny Craig Pavilion.“CIF! CIF! CIF!” jubilant Bonita Vista players screamed as parents opened the door to the team room immediately after the game.The decibel level was deafening in the closed space.

BVHS head coach Wayne Wooten could only smile at what he was witnessing.The Lady Barons were returning to the CIF finals for the first time since 2008.“It’s been a long time since we have won an exciting game like this,” Wooten said. “It was really about execution and our girls wanted it. I give Montgomery a lot of credit. I knew Montgomery would come in here and shoot the lights out. But we played some good defense. Rebounding was the key.”Both teams played good defense in what turned out to be an exceptionally physical girls basketball game. Rebounding indeed was the turning point.Montgomery (23-7) had the upper hand for the first half but the Lady Barons (19-9) finally broke through in the second half when shots that had failed to drop in the first half finally found net.

Bonita Vista’s defensive rebounding in the latter half of the fourth quarter was the real momentum changer.“They were playing offense but we handed it to them,” explained BV sophomore guard Shyla LaTone, who scored 14 points in the fast-paced playoff contest. “Our shots were falling (when they counted most). It’s a good feeling. We wanted this from day one. We wanted to achieve this and we have.”

“Our team played so hard,” chimed in Lady Baron senior guard Carol Schroeder, who led her team with 18 points and nine rebounds against the Lady Aztecs. “We left all our hearts on the court. We played hard even when things appeared to be going against us. I couldn’t have asked for better teammates.”The game was tied 10 times, including six times in the fourth quarter.Montgomery held a 28-24 halftime lead while Bonita Vista led by two points, 38-36, heading into the final quarter.

The Lady Barons scored the opening points of the game on a field goal by Paloma Garcia and managed to rush out to an early 7-3 lead. But Montgomery controlled the pace from there, taking the lead at 8-7 and ending the first quarter with a 16-13 lead on a three-point shot.The Lady Aztecs opened the second quarter with another trey — this time by three-time Metro- South Bay League Player of the Year Mimi Woodson — to lead 19-13 and expanded its lead to 28-22 with 3:30 left in the first half. The Lady Barons scored the first four points to tip off the third quarter to tie the score. Bonita Vista took a 30-28 lead on a jumper by Schroeder but the Lady Aztecs promptly went in front, 31-30, by sinking another three-point bomb.Montgomery led, 34-32, before LaTone dropped in back-to-back three-point bombs to stake the hosts to a 38-34 lead with 2:22 to play in the quarter.Schroeder rode the bench for significant parts of the game due to foul trouble but managed to avoid reaching the limit. Her presence was felt on the court in the dying minutes.

A Schroeder lay-in pushed the Lady Barons ahead 47-45. LaTone got into the act with another lay-in to make the score 51-49 in favor of Bonita Vista.The teams reeled off a dizzying array of offense so much so that it was difficult to keep track. Daeshya Battle made a lay-in with 2:12 to play to put the Lady Barons up 53-49.But a lay-in by Montgomery’s Savannah King tightened the score to 53-51 with 1:42 remaining, and a pair of free throws by Woodson with 1:16 to play tied the score 53-all.“Let’s go Aztecs! Let’s go Aztecs!” the Montgomery fans roared. But the Lady Aztecs would never lead down the stretch.Bonita Vista’s Battle banked in a shot with a minute left to give the hosts a 55-53 lead. Schroeder then grabbed a rebound and scored to make it 57-53 with 21 seconds to play.A foul with 5.7 seconds left positioned LaTone at the charity stripe. She made the first free throw to extend the Lady Barons’ lead to 58-53.

The finish was a blur as King sank a three-point shot as time expired to get the Montgomery fans jumping to their feet.But the buzzer sounded simultaneously to end the game and Bonita Vista players swarmed to midcourt to celebrate. While Tuesday’s game was high on excitement level, Montgomery’s 50-47 upset win over third-seeded Scripps Ranch in last Friday’s quarterfinals might have been even more dramatic. The Lady Aztecs trailed at one point in the game by 15 points.“We just worked hard through adversity,” Woodson said. “We pushed through and managed to get a win.“We worked really hard against Bonita. Things just didn’t work out for us at the end. But I’m proud of my teammates.”

Woodson led all scorers in Tuesday’s game with 22 points. Also for Montgomery, Katherin Cameche had 10 points, King contributed nine points, E’maniie Powell had seven points and Kathlynn Cooper collected six points.Battle added 10 points and three rebounds for the Lady Barons while Garcia recorded eight points.Powell had 21 points in the win over Scripps Ranch while Woodson tacked on 11 points and 10 rebounds.Bonita Vista defeated defending division champion Carlsbad, 69-61, last Friday.Bonita Vista and Imperial (27-3) met once earlier this season with the Lady Tigers recording a 70-68 overtime win.