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Lady Highlanders mash their way past YL into round two of CIF

Lady Highlanders mash their way past YL into round two of CIF

Posted on 19 May 2017 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

The La Habra softball team hit the ball hard for six innings to beat the feisty Yorba Linda Mustangs 9-3 despite trailing early.

The Mustangs struck first with a stolen base, a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt book ended by a pair of singles to take a 1-0 in the top of the first inning.

“They came out enthusiastic and if I’m them, that’s the only way to stay in the ballgame,” said La Habra head coach Steve Harrington.

La Habra came out driving the ball well, but Yorba Linda made a couple nice plays defensively to keep the Lady Highlanders of the base paths in the bottom half of the inning.

“Our kids remained poised and in our first inning we were just mashing the ball,” Harrington said. “I told these kids ‘do not to push the panic button,’ because the way we were hitting the ball, it was going to start landing somewhere and we were hitting the ball very, very hard, so it didn’t matter the fact that we were down 1-0, that was in my opinion really not a factor at all.”

It didn’t take long before the ball started landing in gaps, and beyond. The Lady Highlanders got a single from Janelle Rodriguez in the second. Then Anissa Alatorre followed with a two-run shot to left field that cleared both fences.

Yorba Linda answered right back the next inning with some more small ball. Sierra Buerle singled and Rae Machurski moved her over with another well placed sacrifice bunt. Then Kindy Favata hit a dribbler and beat the throw to first to tie the game at 2-2.

Alyssa Palacios gave La Habra the lead back again in the bottom half of the inning with bases loaded single that scored a pair to make it 4-2 after three innings.

Yorba Linda would add one more run to tighten the gap, but Palacios and the Lady Highlanders offense weren’t done. The La Habra first baseman doubled in a pair of runs in the fifth, then punctuated the victory with a two-run home in the sixth to make it 9-3.

“I felt like I had the perfect rhythm going and knew if I just got a base hit, that it would do the job,” Palacios said. “I didn’t really swing that hard, it just hit the spot and went.”

Palacios lead the way for La Habra with a double and a home run on three hits with five RBI’s.

“I think we knew there was a lot of game left and coach Steve tells us all the time that teams are going to play their best games against us,” Palacios said. “I knew if I did my job, my teammates would do theirs.”

Yorba Linda finished the season at 17-8. Yorba Linda head coach Sharon Farrell is a La Habra resident and has been Mustangs only coach since the school opened. She has a combined record of 107-59 since 2011. The Mustangs have had a winning record every season and finished 24-4 in 2013, when they lost in the CIF Semifinals to Santiago.

“The girls came to play, we were executing in the beginning and really we were there for five innings, but there were a few little pressure errors and it turned it,” Farrell said. “[La Habra] is a great team and good luck to them, we had a great season it just didn’t happen for us today.”

With La Habra moving up to Division 1 this season, every game the rest of the way will be a battle between two of the top teams in the State.

The Lady Highlanders (21-7) will travel to Corona to play Santiago in the second round of the CIF Division 1 Playoffs on Tuesday. Santiago (22-6) is a strong team, currently ranked in the top-10 in CA. The Sharks defeated Yucaipa 6-3 in their opening round matchup on Thursday.

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Lady Highlanders shutout Sunny Hills to win second straight title

Lady Highlanders shutout Sunny Hills to win second straight title

Posted on 12 May 2017 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

Hannah Johnson pitched a two-hit shutout to help the Lady Highlanders win the Freeway League title Friday.

Behind Hannah Johnson’s complete game, two-hit shutout, La Habra avenged its lone Freeway League loss with a 6-0 victory at Sunny Hills Thursday afternoon.

In two seasons under head coach Steve Harrington the La Habra softball team has lost just one Freeway League contest. The only blemish came two weeks ago, a 16-4 loss at the hands of the Lancers.

That loss was fresh in the minds of Harrington and the Lady Highlanders. It was especially important for the seniors to cap their final regular season game with a victory.

Senior center fielder Kira Cauley admitted she felt the added pressure to punctuate her final Freeway League game with a victory.

“All day I was kinda nervous for this game,” Cauley said. “This [game] was really important, especially after freshman year being co-champs with them, sophomore year co-champs then last year winning, there was really an expectation to win and prove our senior class was just as good as last year’s.”

Cauley set the tone defensively right away in the bottom of the first. After cutting off what appeared to be a double into the gap to hold Ashley Moss to a long single, Cauley secured the final two outs in center to stave off a potential early Lancer rally.

The Lady Highlanders got the scoring started in the second inning. Savannah Tourville doubled to open the inning and Anissa Alatorre followed with a single to put runners on the corners. Tourville came home shortly after on a wild pitch.

Up 3-0 La Habra doubled their run total with a three-run fifth inning. After a couple well executed squeeze plays, Alatorre came up with a big RBI double to make it 6-0.

Alatorre lead La Habra with three hits and an RBI. In addition to her great defensive work, Cauley had two RBI’s on the afternoon.

That was more than enough for Johnson, who was masterful all afternoon. The Lady Highlanders’ ace retired the final 12 Lancers she faced, allowed just two hits and struck out five.

“She is usually on, but today she was hitting her spots like crazy,” Cauley said. “Hannah really threw a hell of a game today.”

Harrington praised catcher Alyssa Rios’ work behind the plate. After perhaps the best catcher in the history of La Habra softball, Nikki Butler moved on to become a First Team All-WAC player as a freshman at New Mexico State this season, Rios certainly had some pretty big shoes to fill this season.

“I’m telling you, that girl called the game of her life, I could not have called a better game than she did,” Harrington said. “She was probably the dark horse in this particular outcome, she was the one who got Hannah going today.”

The Lady Highlanders(9-1) finish with their second straight Freeway League title and will enter their first CIF Playoffs in Division 1 next week. The pairings will be announced Monday, with their first round game most likely coming on Thursday.

“How could you not want to be in my shoes, these kids are phenomenal, and they’re such classy kids,” Harrington added.

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Lady Highlanders crush Coyotes on Senior Day

Lady Highlanders crush Coyotes on Senior Day

Posted on 05 May 2017 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

By Miguel Pola. La Habra coach Steve Harrington talks with the players during an earlier game this season. The Lady Highlanders crushed Buena Park 27-0 Thursday.

The seniors on the La Habra softball team ended their final home game with an exclamatory 27-0 victory over Buena Park on Thursday afternoon.

“It’s kinda sad because it goes by so fast, they tell you that it goes by fast but now we’re here on Senior Day and it’s just mind blowing,” senior centerfielder Kira Cauley said. “It was good to take in knowing that every last pitch counts because this will be the last time we take the field together and being in the box knowing that every at bat could be the last.”

Cauley got the offensive outburst going with a leadoff double and came around to score to put La Habra up 1-0 after one inning.

Senior starting pitcher Hannah Johnson was dominant in the circle, retiring nine straight Coyote batters through three innings.

With a 4-0 lead heading to the bottom half of the third, La Habra’s offense exploded for a 13-run inning.

Senior Alyssa Palacios hit a homerun to deep center field to open the inning. The Lady Highlanders proceeded to bat around with four doubles and a second home run off the bat of another senior, Alexis Riley in the inning.

Johnson shut the Coyotes down again in the fourth and finished the game with a no-hitter intact, albeit through four innings of work. After his team posted another 10 runs in the fourth, La Habra coach Steve Harrington opted to get his other pitchers some work in the fifth.

“It’s meant a lot to me playing for La Habra, being a Highlander and playing with the team the last four years was a great experience.” Johnson said. “I’m going to miss how we were such a bonded team and everybody got along.”

With the score looking more like a one-sided football game at 27-0, the umpires called the game before La Habra could bat in the fifth.

Sophomore outfielder Frankie Valencia went 5-5 with three doubles and a triple and finished a home run shy of the cycle. In her final at bat, Valencia scorched a line drive down the left field line that landed five feet shy of the fence and bounced over for a ground rule double.

La Habra(7-1) is tied atop the Freeway League with Sunny Hills(7-1), whom they lost to a week ago. Wednesday at Sunny Hills the two teams will meetup one more time to decide who will be crowned league champs.

“They got us a good time, but the tell tale story will be what happens next [Wednesday] when we play them again,” Harrington said. “I firmly believe our kids are very well prepared for it, they want to do really well.”

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Lady Highlanders look for redemption

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Lady Highlanders look for redemption

Posted on 10 March 2017 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

Unfinished business. That’s exactly what the Lady Highlanders softball team has collectively had on their minds since a crushing loss in the 2016 CIF semifinals derailed La Habra’s championship bid and snapped their school record 26-game winning streak.

Photo courtesy Paula Luna
Ready for the season: The Lady Highlander softball team looks to continue where they finished last year by recapturing the league title and competing for a CIF title. With a number of seniors and returning players, La Habra looks to improve on its 29-2 record from last year.

Despite ending on a sour note, the Lady Highlanders finished with a 29-2 record and have plenty to be optimistic about in 2017. The girls finished a perfect 10-0 in league and will be returning all but three starting position players.
First and foremost, they return a pair of aces in the circle. Seniors Hannah Johnson and Janelle Rodriguez might be the best pitching tandem in the county. Both girls are coming off back-to-back dominant seasons. According to head coach Steve Harrington, Rodriguez is back at full strength after suffering through a shoulder injury late last season.
La Habra will also have All-CIF outfielder Kira Cauley back to spark the offense again. Cauley is a legitimate five-tool talent. In addition, seniors Billie Jean Wells, Alyssa Palacios and Alyssa Rios are all returning starters and major contributors from last season.
La Habra will have some big shoes to fill at a couple key positions though.
Shortstop Frankie Mendoza and catcher Nikki Butler both moved on to play collegiately. Last year’s captains were heart of the order batters and equally valuable on the defensive end. That said, replacing their leadership could prove to be the most difficult hurdle this year.
Although the Lady Highlanders lost a few key starters from a year ago, they are still far and away the favorite to win another Freeway League title.

Photo courtesy Paula Luna Sparking the offense: All-CIF Outfielder Kira Cauley is one of the many seniors that look to help lead the Lady Highlanders this season. La Habra is looking to recapture the league title and run for CIF title.

Sonora (13-11, 6-4) finished in second, while Sunny Hills (16-10, 5-5) and Fullerton (18-12, 5-5) were right behind.
The Raiders are lead by senior captain Claudia Kim, who pitches and plays middle-infield for Sonora.
Harrington is excited about having a lot of returning players and believes a couple girls stepping up from the junior varsity team, as well as a couple freshman will make significant contributions right away.
“A beautiful surprise this year, has been Alexis Riley,” Harrington said.
Riley is a senior, but played junior varsity last season. Harrington admitted her talent has always been there, but praised her on her maturity during the offseason.
La Habra’s success during Harrington’s first season at the helm didn’t go unnoticed. The Lady Highlanders were bumped up to a Division 1 team this year for the first time in school history.
“I don’t care what division we’re in, I’ve been in that division,” Harrington said. “I’ve been down that road many times, heck last year’s team beat the Division 1 champion.”
Harrington added a gauntlet of tough out of league games to the schedule this year to better prepare the girls for the rigors of CIF. After getting his first full offseason with his team, Harrington believes they have what it takes to beat anybody regardless of division.
“This is a tight knit group,” he concluded, “and in my experience, the tighter the group the better the team.

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Sonora 'Splash Brothers' lift Raiders to best record since ‘09

Sonora ‘Splash Brothers’ lift Raiders to best record since ‘09

Posted on 20 February 2017 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

Rarely does one high school basketball team possess a pair of the top three-point shooters in the county. Having a trio, virtually unheard of.

Sean Murphy

In Sean Murphy, Kevin Marlow and Lucas Everett, the Sonora Raiders possess a tandem of sharpshooters, each of whom confident they are the best. And based on the numbers they have posted this season, it’s hard to argue. The trio could be right, perhaps only rivaling each other as Orange County’s top marksman.
Some high school teams don’t post their players stats, as to not give opposing coaches a scouting advantage. But based upon the data available, Marlow, Murphy and Everett comprise three of the top five three-point shooters in Orange County this season.
Everett, a junior, lead everybody with 82 three-pointers this season and finished a robust 45% from behind the arc. He made at least five in a game 12 different times this season. Perhaps his best night came against San Dieguito Academy early in the year when he knocked down eight in one game.
Not to be outdone, Murphy drilled 10 the next night against Animo South Los Angeles to close out the Crean Lutheran tournament. He finished the season with 72 made on 35% shooting.

Kevin Marlow

Marlow, who was the Raiders leading scorer, made a total of 68 threes and shot 35% as well. Had his battery-mates not outdone him, Marlow would own the school record as well. He hit seven against Central Gwinnett (Georgia), and six in the final regular season game against Fullerton this year.
Raiders assistant coach Jason Stein also pointed out Marlow’s uncanny ability as a clutch shooter.
“Kevin hit two huge three-pointers in the closing minutes of regulation against La Costa Canyon in the semi-finals of the Torrey Pines tournament,” Stein said. “Then he hit another big three against Santa Fe Christian in the finals of that same tournament to take home the tournament MVP.”
“And of course, Kevin hit the game winner against Sunny Hills in overtime too,” Stein added.
Beyond the incredible numbers and records each has posted, perhaps the trio’s most resounding endorsement is that they made a believer out of their coach Mike Murphy.
For nearly three decades Murphy has built Sonora into one of the top high school basketball programs in Orange County with a traditional inside-out, pressure defense and ball control philosophy.
But then his son Sean joined the team last season. He and the rest of the trio have shot the ball so well the past two years that they forced Murphy to adapt his approach.

Lucas Everett

“We practice it all the time so if we’re in the game and ever get an open look, [coach] Murph is never going to tell us not to shoot,” Marlow said. “So if we get a good look we’re going to take the shot.”
“Yeah he is real old school guy,” Marlow said. “He would love it if we threw the ball inside every time down the court.”
“He’s never coached three shooters like this,” Sean said of his dad. “After the second half of league last year though, he started to figure it out.”
“I think it was kind of hard for him to expand his thinking at first, but after he got used to it, it worked out really well for us.” Marlow added. “He realized how we could shoot the ball and how it expands the offense, so I think he was more open to that this year.”
“I feel like him changing the way he’s coached his teams in the past has helped us out a lot, because we have all shot the ball pretty well this year,” Sean added.
Sure, making seven, eight or even 10 threes in a game certainly helped the trio sway their passionately old-school coach to release the reigns.
But coach Murphy admitted it was their work off the court that impressed him the most.
“We’ve played 100 games since last year, so I’ve seen them play enough to know I have to let them shoot the ball, that’s what they do,” coach Murphy said. “The faster we play, and the more possessions there are, the better our chances are to win.”
“They work at it, they make those shots for a reason,” Murphy said. “They are always in the gym shooting.”
Murphy said the trio practice so much that he actually has to protect them from overdoing it sometimes. He referenced perhaps basketball’s all-time perfectionist, Kobe Bryant saying not to take more than 600 shots a day to prevent his shoulders from injury.
Aside from their commitment to putting in work, Murphy believes all three truly have a gift to shoot the basketball.
“A lot of it is God-given, they can really shoot the ball and they all get hot, it’s not just one of them, it’s all three,” he added.
After playing his first two seasons at Canyon High School, Sean made the transition to play under his dad his junior year. Sean has flourished at Sonora and helped his pops notch the most regular season wins in over a decade.
Needless to say, both are confident they made the right choice.
“I remember last year when Sean hit five in a quarter, and I was thinking, oh my God this is the game of his life, then last summer he did it every other game.” Murphy said. “It’s really fun coaching your son, I’m glad I got the chance to do it.”
He admitted it was stressful and a rollercoaster of emotions, but concluded it was one of the best experiences in his nearly three decades at Sonora.
It wasn’t just Murphy who began to take notice of the talented shooters on his team.
Game by game, opposing coaches echoed the same takeaway — we knew it was going to be tough stopping all three shooters — nearly every coach admitting how unusual it was to face a team with that many talented shooters.
Despite their best laid plans, opposing coaches had a tough time stifling the trio this year. Behind Marlow, Murphy and Everett’s blistering shooting from beyond the arc, Sonora (25-4) finished with its best record in eight seasons.
“This team shoots the ball as good or better than any team I’ve ever had,” coach Murphy said.
“It’s a ridiculous number how many threes they have made,” coach Murphy said. “You know for a coach like me, who’s old-school, I like to see the ball passed more, but I also encourage those guys every time they’re open to shoot it.”
Marlow and Murphy both plan to play basketball in college next year. Murphy is leaning towards Irvine Valley College.
“I’m not going to stop playing until somebody tells me I have to,” Sean said.
Marlow hasn’t decided on a school, but is talking to several universities right now. The returning Freeway League MVP also carries a 4.3 GPA, which should certainly give Marlow plenty of options.
Fortunately, coach Murphy won’t lose all three, as Everett will be back next season for his senior year at Sonora.
Despite the disappointing ending Friday night, they all agreed the past two seasons were a success. Competing together in sports gives you something much more important than wins and losses, or shooting percentages and records.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Sean concluded. “I love these guys, they’ll be my friends for life.”

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Raiders CIF run ends after falling to Coyotes

Raiders CIF run ends after falling to Coyotes

Posted on 18 February 2017 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

Unlike Sonora, Calabasas didn’t get the luxury of a first round bye, but that didn’t seem to bother them one bit. In fact, the Coyotes felt playing twice this week helped keep them sharp in their 80-69 victory over the Raiders, who conversely appeared out of sync after the week off Friday night.
“I always believed instead of getting a bye I like playing first, and if we get a win that ultimately gives us momentum coming in,” said Calabasas guard Jack Roggin.
In Calabasas, the Raiders ultimately met a team that thrived in this particular matchup. The Coyotes have been more successful against fellow shooting teams like themselves, and have also had more success on the road versus home.
“All season long we have been winning on the road, that’s been our identity,” Roggin added.
The Raiders on the other hand, played extremely well at home, posting a 9-0 record this season coming in. However, the Raiders uncharacteristically struggled from the perimeter.
“It was one of those games where our shots just weren’t falling, I know Lucas had a good game, but it takes the whole team,” Kevin Marlow said. “I don’t think we played badly or anything, they just played a better game tonight, you have to give credit to [Calabasas], they are a great team.”
The Raiders pulled to within one a couple minutes into the third quarter when Sean Murphy nabbed a pair of offensive rebounds and finished the putbacks. But that was the closest they would get the rest of the night.
Calabasas began to pull away in the fourth as Sonora went cold from the perimeter.
Bryce Rutledge got to the line and hit one of two, then stole the inbound and dished to Lucas Everett for the easy bucket to cut the Raiders deficit to 72-65 with :35 to play.
Calabasas converted their free-throw attempts down the stretch though and their hustle finally sealed the victory.
They did miss a couple free-throw attempts on consecutive possessions, but instead of the Raiders coming down the court to cut into the lead, the Coyotes grabbed the offensive rebound and went right back to the line both times.
Calabasas’ 1-3-1 zone defense kept Sonora out of sync most of the night.
“That’s our identity right now and that’s the way we stop shooters,” Roggin said of Calabasas’ effort. “We knew they had three guys that literally make five threes a game, so that was our game plan with the zone to slow them down.”
The Raiders offense fell into the trap of swinging the ball back and forth around the perimeter with very minimal dribble-penetration into the paint. This allowed the Coyotes to keep a lot of pressure on the Raiders’ shooters, who had trouble getting open looks.
Roggin lead all scorers with 19 points, and shot 5-8 from downtown.
“We are not a big team, so there’s a lot of shooting,” Roggin said. “We know that’s what our biggest factor is, to keep hitting threes or we might get out of the game.”
The Raiders leading scorers were, Everett with 17, Carter with 16 and Marlow had 14.
Outside of Everett, who went 5-7 from beyond the arc, the rest of the team had an off night shooting. Everett will be the only starter returning next season.
Carter, Marlow, Murphy and Rutledge all plan to continue playing college ball in 2018.
Despite the early exit, Sonora finished the season with their best overall record in eight years at 25-4.

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Raiders repeat Freeway League Finals success

Raiders repeat Freeway League Finals success

Posted on 12 February 2017 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

Sonora may have graduated many of their top wrestlers from last season, but that didn’t stop David Carrizosa’s Raiders from dominating the 2017 Freeway League Finals tournament Friday night.

The Raiders finished with seven individual titles a year ago, last night they crowned six league champions. The Raiders will also be sending 12 wrestlers to CIF next Friday, which tops the nine qualifiers each of the previous two seasons.

One of the biggest surprises of the night was the 112-pound champion, Sonora freshman Richie Herrera. Carrizosa was certainly impressed with his Herrera, who joined the Raiders starting lineup for the first time this season after an injury last week.

“I knew Richie was good and we were confident he would place, but for him to win it, and the way he did was pretty incredible,” Carrizosa said.

Herrera blanked La Habra’s Oscar Alcala 6-0 in the semifinal round, then defeated Jacob Romo of Fullerton 13-2 in the championship.

Sonora also won the next three weight classes, Isaiah Perez at 120 pounds, Joe Lopez at 126 and Hiwad Stanekzai at 132. Both Perez and Stanekzai are now two-time league champions.

Stanekzai pinned both his semifinal and championship round opponents in less than a minute to earn Freeway League Tournament MVP of the lower weights.

Carrizosa said that Stanekzai has been a talented wrestler for a long time, but he thinks that it all came together for him the last couple weeks because he was able to devote more time on the mat. Stanekzai is a senior honor student, so earlier in the season he focused a lot of his time on applying and interviewing with colleges.

La Habra finished with one champion, 170-pounder Brandon Murray, who edged out Troy’s Tommy Hoover.

Sonora (224) finished first in team points, with Fullerton (202) in second and Troy (190) not far behind.

Sonora and the rest of the Freeway League qualifiers will travel to the Inland Empire for the CIF-SS Championships next Friday.

 Carrizosa is optimistic about his team’s chances next week, but admitted he doesn’t have one or two returning champs or top-seeds like he had the previous few years, so everybody must wrestle their best if they want to have a chance to qualify for the Master’s and State Tournaments.

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Raiders secure 5th straight title on Murphy's 600th win

Raiders secure 5th straight title on Murphy’s 600th win

Posted on 04 February 2017 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

Sonora closed out the regular season with a wire-to-wire 77-48 victory over Fullerton at home Thursday night to capture their fifth straight Freeway League title, and seventh in the last eight years. The win also ranked has Sonora Head Coach Mike Murphy’s 600 career win.

Coach Mike Murphy prepares the Freeway Leage Champion Raiders team.

The Raiders forced five turnovers and raced out to a 14-2 lead within the first three minutes of the opening quarter. Sean Murphy and Kevin Marlow each hit a three-pointer, while Austin Carter poured in a pair of buckets in the paint.

Junior Lucas Everett said the game plan all along was to build a big lead early, so all of the seniors could get a chance to play in their final home game.

“We wanted to try to get them as many minutes as possible,” Everett said.

Coach Murphy said that they wanted Senior Night to be the funnest game of the year, and it certainly fit the bill.

“It’s Senior Night, we got all the seniors in–most in the first half–and most of them scored, so it was just a really fun night,” he added.

Fullerton never cut the lead to single digits the rest of the way. The Indians had an opportunity with :28 left in the first half, but after Stone Sinek’s shot rimmed out, the Raiders hustled down the court in the waning seconds and Murphy found senior Michael Lopez for a corner three that splashed through the net right at the buzzer to extend the lead to 43-29 at the break.

The Raiders iced the game in spectacular fashion early in the fourth. Marlow hit back-to-back NBA range threes, then came up with a steal and found Carter hustling down in transition for a crowd-pleasing, two-handed dunk that gave the Raiders their biggest lead of the game 73-45 with five minutes to play.

Marlow lead all scorers with 24 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 steals.

Carter finished with 21 points, 8 rebounds and a couple assists. Perhaps most impressively though, he was still diving on the floor and going after every loose ball with the Raiders up by more than 20 points in the final quarter.

“Austin has an unbelievable motor, that’s what is so appealing about him to all of the colleges,” coach Murphy said. “He is probably the most talented player on the floor every night, and he plays as hard or harder than anybody out there.”

Sinek paced his season average with 15 points for Fullerton, with 12 coming in the first half.

The Raiders finished the regular season with a 25-3 record and went 9-1 in league, with the lone loss coming against La Habra.

“This team shoots the ball as good or better than any team I’ve ever had,” coach Murphy said. “And they’ve just got a lot of grit, they’re tough, they battle and beat teams they shouldn’t beat.”

Sonora will find out who their first round playoff matchup will be against on Sunday, when the CIF brackets are released. Murphy acknowledged that Division 1-AA will be a tough brackett, be feels confident his team can make a run at the title.

“I don’t think there is any team that we can’t compete with, so we are excited about the playoffs,” he added.

It wasn’t just the boys who dominated Senior Night at Sonora.

Earlier in the evening, the Lady Raiders ended the regular season with a wire-to-wire win of their own, defeating Fullerton 60-17.

Coach Melissa Barajas’ team finished second in the Freeway League with a 19-7 record overall and 8-2 in league. The girls only losses were to the league champs, Troy.

Barajas and the Lady Raiders will also find out their CIF matchup on Sunday.

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Emma Zener: The Lady Highlanders Sharpshooter Breaks 1,000

Emma Zener: The Lady Highlanders Sharpshooter Breaks 1,000

Posted on 26 January 2017 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

Photo by Paul Luna

Lady Highlander senior Emma Zener had a day to remember. Just a few hours after she was named La Habra’s class of 2017 co-valedictorian, Zener surpassed a milestone never before reached in school history on Tuesday night.

With her 10 points against Sunny Hills on Tuesday, Zener eclipsed 1,000 for her career and helped lift the Lady Highlanders over the Lancers.

Zener came into the game seven points shy of 1000 for her career. So her average of 11 points per game seemed to make eclipsing the milestone mostly a formality.

However, the standout sharpshooter opened the first quarter ice cold.

With friends and family filling up the La Habra gym, and the PA announcer reminding everyone in attendance of the looming milestone several times, Zener began the night uncharacteristically off from behind the arc, missing her first six shots.

“Going into the game I was a little more nervous than usual because I knew that I had family coming out and people were expecting me to hit seven more points,” Zener said. “Normally I wouldn’t see seven as that many points, but suddenly reaching that milestone was like trying to get over the hump.”

Photo by Paul Luna

As the game progressed, she turned to her defense to create some easy offense and get to the basket, which is something she and her head coach Dana Khandelwal have been working on all year.

“By this point with four years on varsity teams know she’s going to shoot, so this year we have encouraged her and really worked with her on attacking the basket,” Khandelwal said.

Midway through the second quarter Zener grabbed a rebound and took it the length of the court for a layup. And one minute later she came up with a steal and another transition bucket at the rim.

Khandelwal said Zener was already a prolific three-point shooter the past three seasons, but what has set her apart this season, has been her ability to zadrive to the basket.

That setup center Hannah McArthur to find Zener open behind the arc, and she fittingly knocked down a three to reach the rare milestone with 1:47 remaining in the first half.

“At first when my shots weren’t falling I started to get a little nervous, but then once I hit those layups, I was really happy to hit my 1000th point on a three.” Zener said.

After trailing the Lancers by a basket through the first quarter, Zener’s seven points in the second helped give the Lady Highlanders a 27-17 lead at the half, and they they never looked back.

La Habra would go on to beat Sunny Hills 52-36, with Zener adding another three in the third quarter to cement this game and her forever in the record books.

“We talked about this game last night and how we wanted to get to the third spot for the playoffs,” Khandelwal said. “We actually didn’t put too much pressure on the seven points because she’s averaging 11 [per game] now anyway, so we knew she was going to get it.”

Zener plans to continue playing basketball at the next level. The newly honored valedictorian will attend Smith College in Massachusetts, where she will play basketball and pursue a liberal arts degree.

“I wanted to go to a college where I can be a student first because I’ve always loved learning more than basketball,” she said. “I realized at a D3 I can do that, basketball is just a part of who you are, it’s not your whole identity and I love the idea of an all women’s college.”

Zener said that she realized at the beginning of her freshman year if she wanted to maintain success in both the classroom and on the court, that she would have to create a regiment for herself.

“I would say it was a lot of self discipline, with telling myself I want to be the best in school and in basketball,” Zener said. “I don’t want to be just a student or just a basketball player, but a student-athlete who excels in both.”

At 1003 and counting, Zener and the Lady Highlanders (14-6, 3-2) will have their hands full when they host Troy (13-6, 5-0) on Friday night. The Warriors hold an impressive record of their own, having won an astonishing 205 consecutive Freeway League games.

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Highlanders upset rival Raiders to end drought

Highlanders upset rival Raiders to end drought

Posted on 14 January 2017 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

Senior Devin Howlin hit a floater in the paint with :16 left to cap the La Habra’s 64-63 upset over rival Sonora Friday night, snapping the Highlanders 21-game losing streak in Freeway League play.

La Habra’s Nicholas Vega pushes past Sonora’s Lacas Everett on their way to a 64-63 upset win over the crosstown rivals.

It was a back and forth battle all night, with neither team extending the lead past 6 points the entire second half. The grueling matchup took its toll on both sides, but La Habra appeared to be the fresher team down the stretch, getting to most of the loose balls and forcing turnovers.

“Sonora is such a great team and they have a great program, so I felt like we had to play loose,” said Dave Ploog La Habra head coach. “In this city rivalry you can tense up, so our game plan was to be loose and get the shots we wanted.”

The Raiders held a 63-60 lead with just over a minute to play. After center Austin Carter missed a pair of free-throws, the Highlanders cut it to one point with just :30 on the clock.

It appeared Sonora would have the opportunity to hold for the final shot, or perhaps force La Habra to foul, but the Highlander defense forced a turnover.

“We talked a lot about having a high level of energy and really playing intense,” Ploog added.

Sonora’s Kevin Marlow denies La Habra’s Ben Peppard Friday in a close 64-63 LHHS win.

Instead of intentionally fouling, the Highlanders trapped Sean Murphy a couple feet behind the 3-point line and the refs called him for sliding his pivot foot.

“We pride ourselves this year on playing hard pressure defense” Ploog said. “I think that over the course of a game pressuring them, it forces them to make some mistakes.”

The costly turnover paved the way for Howlin’s game-winner.

“Towards the end of the game we called Devin’s number and we asked him what he wanted to do, because we want to trust our guys and their play,” Ploog said. “He wanted to take his guy one on one, he trusted his jump shot and hit a big shot for us.”

Murphy had a chance at redemption with an open look from straight away, but his shot rimmed out as time expired.

“I think we just came out flat tonight, we might have underestimated them a little bit,” Murphy said.

Sonora held a narrow lead as time ticked down in third quarter as well, but in a bit of foreshadowing Howlin drove down the lane and scored with :17 on the clock to put his team up 49-48 heading into the fourth.

“Devin’s been our leading scorer this season, he’s our leader, our best rebounder,” Ploog said of his captian.

Howlin lead all scorers with 23 points and also had a team-best 9 rebounds.

Kevin Marlow scored a team-high 21 points, and Carter had a double-double with 13 and 10 for the Raiders.

La Habra (7-11, 1-1) will continue Freeway League play Tuesday night when they host Buena Park (16-2, 0-1).

Sonora (17-3, 1-1) will look to get back on track when they host Sunny Hills (12-8, 1-1) Tuesday night.

“The good thing about basketball though, is we get to play them again at home in a couple weeks,” Murphy said.

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