Archive | December, 2013

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Heralds edged by Troy for Leon Davis Christmas Classic championship

Posted on 31 December 2013 by La Habra Journal

Christian Labadie looks to finish strong while Troy's Josh Carnesi attempts to get a hand on the ball during the second half of a 59-51 Troy win, Monday night in the Leon Davis Christmas Classic Championship game.

Christian Labadie looks to finish strong while Troy’s Josh Carnesi attempts to get a hand on the ball during the second half of a 59-51 Troy win, Monday night in the Leon Davis Christmas Classic Championship game.

by Jeremiah Girard
La Habra Journal

A pair of runs by the Troy Warriors proved to be too much for the Whittier Christian boys basketball team as it fell 59-51 in the championship game of the Leon Davis Christmas Classic, Monday night at home.

The second run was the back-breaker, as the Warriors turned a tie ballgame into a 10-point lead to close out the third quarter.

“Troy executed their game much better than we did tonight,” said senior guard and captain, Ryan Esslinger. “We did not play our best, but they played a great game.”

The Warriors came out hot and jumped out to a 9-0 lead over the Heralds. Whittier Christian spent the rest of the game trying to battle back and was never able to have the lead at any point.

The Heralds’ comeback effort was led by junior guard Kaipo Villeza. In the first half alone, he knocked down four three-point shots and went into the break with 12 points.

He was matched shot for shot by Troy’s Chad Rollins, who also made four three pointers in the first half. Both finished the game with a game-high 17 points, and five made three pointers.

Troy (10-5) was able to do an excellent job containing the Heralds’ leading scorer, Jake Rivera. He was held scoreless in the first half and only scored 10 points in the second, which was under his season average of 15.9 points per game.

However, even with no point production from Rivera in the first half, the Heralds (8-5) kept pace with Troy in the second quarter and had a manageable 29-25 deficit heading into the half.

“We can definitely look back and say that we fought hard tonight,” Esslinger said. “We definitely just need to cut down on mistakes and keep the intensity up.

In the third quarter, the Heralds came back to force a tie. Immediately after, the Warriors rattled off a 10- run and shut down any thoughts of a comeback for the Heralds.

Even though the Heralds outscored Troy 18-16 in the final quarter it was not enough. Esslinger fouled out with less than two minutes left and finished with 10 points.

“When we look back at this tournament, it will definitely be a positive experience for this team,” Esslinger said. “We were able to pull off a five-game winning streak and get some positive momentum heading into league.”

Whittier Christian will open up league play on January 14 at home against Marantha, at 7 p.m, but will first play a nonleague game at La Serna, this Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

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Lady Heralds shut down Ontario Christian to claim Knight Time Classic title

Posted on 30 December 2013 by La Habra Journal

WClogoby Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

ONTARIO – The Whittier Christian girls’ basketball team continued to show no signs of struggle with its coaching transition and pressured its way to the OC Knight Time Classic Championship with a 42-23 win over host Ontario Christian, Monday night at Ontario Christian High.

After nearly giving up an early lead in the second quarter, the Lady Heralds’ full court pressure defense allowed just four points in the second half, while forcing the Lady Knights into 15 turnovers.

“We just wanted to maintain our turnovers, while looking to get stops and contain them,” said Sydney Lopez, senior captain. “We knew we needed to establish our offense early on. It was hard coming [into the tournament] with a new coach, but we’re running the same plays, so that made it a little easier.”

Lopez led the Lady Heralds with 15 points and Hannah Yoshihara added 10 points. Megan Kleber led Whittier Christian with eight rebounds, half of which came at the offensive end.

On the defensive side, Priscilla Zamorano recorded six steals, while Lopez added four steals and seven rebounds.

But the key for the Lady Heralds throughout the OC Knight Time Classic has been in its quick starts, and Monday night’s championship tilt was no different.

Lopez scored eight points in the opening quarter and Kleber turned two offensive rebounds into four points in leading Whittier Christian (7-5) to an early 17-6 lead.

“That was important, because we struggle sometimes when we play from behind,” Lopez said. “We knew we needed an early lead.”

However, the game slowed down for Whittier Christian in the second quarter when problems with ball-control arose, leading to nine turnovers.

Yoshihara bailed out her team with five big points, but the Lady Knights responded with Anna Spykstra, who led the team with five points of her own in the quarter.

Ontario Christian’s Amanda McGuire pushed in two baskets in the paint as the Lady Knights (7-3) shrunk Whittier Christian’s lead to 24-19 at the break.

Both teams struggled to get going after the break until Yoshihara hit a 3-pointer over four minutes into the third quarter.

“We were making really bad passes, trying to force the ball into areas where we weren’t open,” said Grace Ricafranca, Lady Heralds’ head coach. “I think once we picked it up and made better passes, we did a much better job moving and swinging the ball. We’ve been trying to incorporate some newer offenses, which could be a reason for those turnovers.”

That basket energized the Lady Heralds as Yoshihara followed with a jumper and Tyler Gibson added a layup to stretch the lead to 32-20.

Lopez kept pace in the paint during the fourth quarter and the Lady Heralds’ defensive pressure allowed just one field goal to Spykstra in the entire second half.

Spykstra led the Lady Knights with nine points, while McGuire added six first-half points.

“What we did in the second half was go to more of a man defense because we thought we matched up well,” said Grace Ricafranca, Lady Heralds’ head coach. “It worked out to our favor, all I wanted was to make sure we weren’t fouling. We wanted a clean game and we wanted to force turnovers.”

Guards Zamorano and Yoshihara were named to the All-Tournament team and Lopez was given the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.

The Lady Heralds are 7-5 overall, but 4-0 under the direction of Ricafranca, who believes that the credit should still go to previous coach Richard Villeza.

“There definitely was a hope,” Ricafranca said of becoming tournament champions to start her varsity coaching career. “It really became a reality after our second game against Gabrielino, after that game it felt like we were on the same page. As my first time as head coach, I’m elated, but these girls would not be here without the hard work and time that Coach Richard put into them, I have to give him the credit here. I just did my best and these girls put in the hard work.”

The Lady Heralds will continue their nonleague schedule with a road game against La Serna, Saturday at 6 p.m.


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Highlanders keep up scoring pace, roll past Warren

Posted on 30 December 2013 by La Habra Journal

Zach Gray (shown here against La Serna) led the Highlanders with 26 points in a 79-65 win over Warren, Saturday at Whittier High.

Zach Gray (shown here against La Serna) led the Highlanders with 26 points in a 79-65 win over Warren, Saturday at Whittier High.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

WHITTIER – Using a formula similar to its Saturday win, the La Habra boys’ basketball team wrapped up the 4th Annual Whittier Holiday Invitational with a high-powered 79-65 victory over Warren of Downey, Monday afternoon at Whittier High.

The Highlanders started the contest on an 8-0 run, hit four of their first five shots and never trailed in finishing the tournament with a 3-1 record.

“That’s been huge, we’ve been talking as a group about moving the ball and that we’ll get good shots if we keep moving it around,” Ploog said of his team’s quick start. “To come out and have starts like that helps everything, our flow, our confidence. We weren’t getting that in the beginning of the year, but now I feel like we’re getting more comfortable with our shot and playing with each other.”

Zach Gray evenly spread his team-high 26 points across all four quarters, while Adam Cooley and Michael Banks also scored in double figures with 17 and 13 points, respectively.

Cooley hauled in a team-high seven rebounds and five different players had at least two assists.

The Highlanders’ defense held Warren to 15 points or less in all but one quarter and forced 12 turnovers.

Banks was also a key contributor with five rebounds, two blocks and three steals.

“Defensively, with his length, we’ve been talking with him about not jumping,” Ploog said. “He loves to jump, but it gets him out of position, but with his size and length, if he just stays down he’s always in a good position and he was able to get tips and some good rebounds on the defensive end.”

Gray opened the game with a 3-pointer, which was followed by a steal and dunk by Banks and another 3-pointer by Cooley. After the Bears scored their first basket, Justin Jaimez drained another 3-pointer to give the Highlanders an early 11-2 lead.

However, in the second quarter, Warren (5-7) was sparked by guards D’Caron Anderson and Shree Narkar, who combined for six 3-pointers and pulled even with La Habra at one point, 33-33 after Narkar drained his fourth long-distance shot. The duo scored 20 of the Bears’ 26 second-quarter points.

Anderson led the Bears with 24 points, while Narkar added 15 points on five 3-pointers.

However, Banks countered with a trio of nice drives inside and Peter Hutchinson drained a pair of jump shots to keep La Habra ahead 43-38 at halftime.

But the Highlanders (10-3) came out strong defensively in the third quarter, holding Anderson without a field goal, though he did hit seven free throws.

“We talked at halftime about switching all our screens,” Ploog said. “They would screen, and then screen the guy who was screening, which got us confused. We just started switching every screen, which made it hard for them to get that first easy pass because we were out on the perimeter. It hindered our rebounding a bit, but it helped because we were pressuring the shooters faster.”

Cooley and Banks scored five points and hauled in two offensive rebounds each in the quarter, while Gray hit another 3-pointer as the Highlanders extended the lead to nine points heading into the fourth quarter.

The lead remained in the high single digits until Warren Head Coach Ryan Hart was whistled twice for technical fouls for arguing, which allowed Gray to hit four consecutive free throws. Adam Cooley scored a layup on the ensuing possession for a quick 6-0 La Habra swing.

La Habra used bench players from that point on in cruising to its second consecutive double-digit win.

“I think we stayed consistent on defense, which is our key,” Ploog said. “Sometimes it’s hard night after night to play, but I still think we’re a good defensive team. We’re progressing in our offense in terms of knowing who our shooters are, where to shoot and we’ve worked on our free throws too, we just want to keep improving.”

The Highlanders will head to El Toro High on Thursday for a nonleague matchup with Tesoro in the OC North/South Challenge.

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Whittier Christian, La Habra boys hoops pick up big tournament wins

Posted on 28 December 2013 by La Habra Journal

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

heralds_whittier_christian_boys_varsity_baseball_spring_11-12WHITTIER CHRISTIAN

Fueled by a fast start and plenty of outside shooting, the Whittier Christian boys’ basketball team earned a championship berth in the Leon Davis Christmas Classic after besting Riverside Prep of Oro Grande 47-40, Saturday night at Whittier Christian High.

Senior forward Jake Rivera put up the game’s first eight points and the Heralds (8-4) led by as many as 15 points in the second quarter. The Heralds hit seven 3-pointers.

“They are very athletic and quick, so we thought if put pressure on them and made them play faster than what they’re accustomed to, as crazy as that sounds, that would work in our favor,” said Sherwin Durham, Heralds head coach. “That’s what helped us to the big advantage in the first half.”

Rivera started the game with two 3-pointers and a layup to put the Heralds up 8-0 immediately. Christian Labadie and Shawn Stolt provided help with nine combined points as the Heralds led 17-9 after the first quarter.

Another long distance shot by Ryan Esslinger and a jumper by Rivera stretched the lead to 24-9, but back-to-back 3-pointers by the Silver Knights’ Cameron Woods and Vision Pluma late in the quarter reduced the lead to nine points at the half.

“We think it’s contagious, there can be a trickle-down effect,” Durham said of the multiple contributors in scoring. “It’s huge, we want to stretch the floor. We’re different, we want to play inside-out, but these guys love to shoot, so we play outside-in. We want to switch it, but if we can knock down some 3s, that’s going to stretch the defense and then we have a post game that can match that.”

Things slowed down for the Heralds from there as Rivera went cold from the field. Pluma hit another 3-pointer for Riverside Prep (8-2) and forward Chris Bailey added three baskets down low as the Silver Knights cut the lead to five points heading into the fourth quarter.

The Heralds maintained the lead thanks to long distance shots by Esslinger and Kaipo Villeza.

Rivera found his stride again in the fourth quarter and the Heralds controlled the boards in leading to the seven-point victory.

“We have athletes, guys that can jump and are physical down there,” Durham said. “We want to win points in the paint and the battle of the boards and if you can do that, usually you are on the winning side of things.”

Rivera led the Heralds with 21 points and Esslinger added 10 points, including a 3-for-4 night from 3-point range, to go with eight rebounds. Shawn Stolt added six points and picked up 10 rebounds.

Bailey led the Silver Knights with 11 points, while Elijah Woods and Pluma added nine and eight points respectively. Elijah Woods had a team-high eight rebounds.

The Heralds will move on to the championship game where they will play Troy, which beat Valley Christian 68-63 to earn its spot in the finals.

“They’re a good team, they’re solid,” Durham said of Troy. “When I saw them earlier in the week, I wasn’t sure if they were the team that would come out of that side, but they started to play better and better, it was good for us to see that. I think we’ll be up for the task, they’re sort of a carbon copy of what we do and they might be a little better at it, but the final score on Monday will let us know for sure.”

The game will take place at Whittier Christian High, Monday at 6 p.m.

highlander-logoLA HABRA

It didn’t take long for the La Habra boys’ basketball team to fix some problems that plagued the team in Friday night’s loss to Claremont in the Whittier Holiday Invitational.

Less than 24 hours after seeing their six-game win streak snapped, the Highlanders jumped out to an early lead, dominated the boards and forced a handful of turnovers in beating Glenn 81-49, Saturday afternoon at Whittier High.

Guard Zach Gray led the charge with 24 points while playing only the first three quarters. His 3-point shooting helped the Highlanders (8-3) score the first 10 points of the game.

“We shot the ball really well early on,” said Dave Ploog, Highlanders’ head coach. “When you get that going, it really helps. It spread the floor out, which opened us up inside. It’s good for Zach too because it helps his confidence, he’s one of our best shooters.”

Adam Cooley, who also didn’t play the fourth quarter, provided support with 14 points as La Habra scored more than 20 points in each of the first three quarters.

Michael Banks added eight points and led the team with 11 rebounds. As a team, the Highlanders outrebounded the Eagles 43-19.

“They were running zone, so we had two guys on the high post and low post,” Ploog said in regards to offensive rebounding. “They were able to crash in really well and that made a big difference because we always had one guy underneath their defense and that really helped over time.”

Gray scored 12 of his 24 points in the first quarter on four 3-pointers. He and Adam Cooley combined for La Habra’s 10-0 run to start the game.

In the second quarter, Justin Jaimez and Peter Hutchinson took over, scoring seven points each as the Highlanders enjoyed a comfortable 45-17 lead at the break.

Gray’s fifth 3-pointer pushed La Habra to its highest lead at 37 points in the third quarter.

Banks and Devin Melendez each had four points and four rebounds in the fourth quarter as the Highlanders cruised to victory.

“The fourth quarter gave us a chance to evaluate some of our bench players to see how we can use them in league if we need them to fill in for a few minutes,” Ploog said. “I saw some really good things in their defense and rebounding, so that’s good to know for the future.”

The 81 points scored by La Habra are a season high for the team and 17 points more than its previous season high of 64 in a tournament game against South Torrance.

Forward Alan Solorzano led Glenn (6-6) with 18 points while guard Sunny Bedi scored all 10 of his points in the second half.

The Highlanders wrap up the 4th Annual Whittier Holiday Classic with a 3 p.m. tilt against Warren, Monday at Whittier High.

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Whittier Christian, Sonora girls soccer wrap up tournaments

Posted on 28 December 2013 by La Habra Journal

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal


ONTARIO – Still seeking its first win of the season, the Whittier Christian girls’ soccer team got a second chance against Hacienda Heights Wilson, Saturday morning at Ontario Christian High.

After battling to a scoreless draw in regulation, the Lady Heralds fell in penalty kicks, 4-2, but the effort was a vast improvement over the 4-0 loss they suffered earlier this year.

With Meghan Buchanan playing sweeper, Whittier Christian limited the Ladycats’ attack. Amy Baray controlled and forced turnovers near midfield, but the Lady Heralds couldn’t connect in the offensive third.

“Having Meghan back there definitely changes things because she’s the one who organizes our defense and gets them settled,” said Nicole Nicolaides, Whittier Christian head coach. “Amy’s phenomenal, she’s so fast, so we can play in a higher press because they’re so quick that we’re not worried about a through ball, we know they can catch up to those. It allows us to push up our midfield too.”

Whittier Christian (0-11-2) had the game’s best scoring opportunity, when Buchanan knocked a header into the goal off a corner kick. However, forward Katie Pippen was called for a foul when she knocked into the goalkeeper and the score was nullified.

“We pull Meghan up on corner kicks because she’s really the only height we have on the team with Lizzie [Burns] out,” Nicolaides said.

In the second half, the Lady Heralds put a cross within close range, but Mariah Gishwiller couldn’t make solid contact and the ball skipped off to the right.

Wilson’s Caitlin Greenup provided the Ladycats (5-6-3) with their best chance at scoring by isolating herself in one-on-one situations and using her speed to get past defenders.

However, of her four chances, two were saved by Whittier Christian goalkeeper Klarissa Flores and the other two rolled wide of the goal.

Greenup also missed wide on a header off a free kick by forward Christina Flores.

In penalty kicks, Wilson’s first four shooters put the ball past Flores, while Wilson goalkeeper Minerva Lopez stopped the first two Whittier Christian shots.

Baray and Buchanan each knocked in a penalty kick for the Lady Heralds.

The Lady Heralds will now turn their attention to Olympic League play, where they open up with Maranatha, Jan. 14. Nicolaides hopes that a little extra time will help in getting some girls back from injury.

The Lady Heralds will be without midfielder Sophie Basalone, who is out for the season. Nicolaides hopes that Burns can return from her injury in mid-January.

“We’ve grown a lot as a team as far as our team chemistry goes because we’ve had so many injuries,” Nicolaides said. “We’ve had a lot of players stepping into positions that they’re not used to, but they’ve really had to rely on each other and that’s helped our team chemistry. They’re seeing each other on the field a lot better than they were earlier this year.”


Persistence paid off late for the Sonora girls’ soccer team in a 4-0 victory over Rancho Alamitos to close out the North Orange County Championships, Saturday morning at Sonora High.

After scoring just one goal in the first 62 minutes, the Lady Raiders put three shots in net within a five minute span and closed the tournament with a 2-1-1 record.

All four goals were scored by freshmen, with Monica Zaring leading the way with two goals. Defender Liliana Irizabal and forward Ashley Bordy accounted for the other two scores.

“We’ve already had conversations with them all, they’re on the team for a reason,” said Sonora head coach Alex Bengard of his freshmen. “In order for us to be successful, they’re going to have to step up and score goals and they know that. That’s the point of the preseason is for them to get clicking so that when we hit league they’re in full stride and can hopefully do some damage.”

After falling to Sage Hill, 2-1, earlier in the morning, the Lady Raiders bounced back and dominated time of possession against the Vaqueros.

“We knew that technically that was our final, so the girls gave everything they had there,” Bengard said about the Sage Hill matchup. “So some of the girls were a little tired and we had to go at it again an hour later with one sub because we’re banged up. That could be why it took us a little while to get going.”

However, for most of the game, the Lady Raiders couldn’t get an accurate final touch as opportunities either sailed wide, or went straight into the arms of Rancho Alamitos’ goalkeeper.

But Sonora took an early lead and defended it for nearly 60 minutes.

In the 5th minute, Zaring put Sonora up 1-0 when her shot bounced through the hands of the Rancho Alamitos goalkeeper and trickled in.

After missing a handful of opportunities, Irizabal doubled the lead by blasting a shot to the upper left corner when the Vaqueros failed to clear a corner kick.

“When one went in, it seemed like the others just followed,” Bengard said. “They did well, they got the win and did what they needed to do, I’ll take it.”

Two minutes later, Zaring knocked in her second goal with a header off a corner kick from Jessica Bautista.

Finally, just before the end of regulation, Zaring took a final shot that bounced off the goalkeeper’s hands and found the right foot of Bordy, who easily chipped it back in for the score.

Sonora also defeated Southeast High 9-0 and tied Bellflower High, 1-1, in the tournament.

“It was a good balance, we played some teams that I thought we were better than on paper and we were able to work on some things,” Bengard said. “We also played some teams that I thought we were pretty even with that challenged us. That’s what you want out of a tournament. We didn’t get all the results we wanted, but there are some things we can take from every game and apply them to the training field.”

The Lady Raiders will play another nonleague contest against Ayala High on the road, Jan. 9 at 3 p.m.

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Highlanders six-game win streak snapped by Claremont

Posted on 27 December 2013 by La Habra Journal

Adam Cooley, shown against La Serna, led the Highlanders with 19 points in a 59-48 loss to Claremont in the Whittier Holiday Invitational, Friday night at Whittier High.

Adam Cooley, shown against La Serna, led the Highlanders with 19 points in a 59-48 loss to Claremont in the Whittier Holiday Invitational, Friday night at Whittier High.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

WHITTIER – The La Habra boys’ basketball team saw a six-game winning streak come to an end after a 59-48 loss to Claremont, Friday night at Whittier High in the 4th Annual Whittier Holiday Invitational.

The Highlanders struggled on the boards and had problems turning the ball over against Claremont’s aggressive defense. La Habra gave up 13 offensive rebounds, which led to a handful of second-chance points for the Wolfpack.

“We just got frustrated and didn’t deal with pressure well,” said Dave Ploog, Highlanders head coach. “We turned the ball over a lot and we kept talking about getting good rebounds and boxing out, but in the third quarter we weren’t able to do it. We weren’t going to crawl back in the game if we didn’t limit their offensive rebounds.”

On the offensive end, the Highlanders (8-3) struggled to finish near the basket and relied on 3-point shooting in the third quarter to decrease the deficit to one point.

However, Claremont (8-4) scored the final six points of the third quarter and pushed the lead to double digits early in the fourth quarter.

Adam Cooley led La Habra with 19 points, but struggled from the free throw line, making 6-of-11 shots from the stripe.

Zach Gray added nine points, all scored on 3-pointers, and Michael Banks scored eight points and led the team with nine rebounds, but went 4-of-15 from the field.

The Wolfpack jumped ahead early with a 3-pointer by forward Omar Mahmoud and baskets by Kyle Scalmanini and center Chris Edward before Ploog called an early timeout.

La Habra clawed back in behind nine forced turnovers. Cooley scored six points in the second quarter as the Highlanders outscored Claremont 12-6 and found themselves down by one point at the break.

Gray and Justin Jaimez combined for three 3-pointers to keep the deficit at 38-37, but Claremont’s Quincy Hales and Mahmoud combined for three baskets to end the quarter with a seven-point lead.

“We did a good job at making them miss the first shot, but then they would get the second one,” Ploog said. “That prevented us from getting back in the game, giving them those second chances.”

Mahmoud’s scoring and Edward’s rebounding proved to wear out the Highlanders in the second half. Mahmoud scored 12 of his team-high 19 points in the second half, while Edward recorded a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Of Edward’s rebounds, five were hauled in on the offensive end. Scalmanini added seven second-half points and finished with nine points total.

The Highlanders continue the Whittier Holiday Invitational against John Glenn High at Whittier High School, tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.

“Playing a team like this is good because we’ll see teams like this down the road, like maybe a Troy,” Ploog said. “It will help prepare us for some league opponents, playing that quick, trapping type of team.”

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Raiders bottle up Western, miss opportunities in scoreless draw

Posted on 27 December 2013 by La Habra Journal

sonoraby Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

Despite having the edge in time of possession, the Sonora boys’ soccer team couldn’t quite find a finishing touch in a scoreless draw with Western, Friday afternoon at Sonora High.

While the Raiders’ defense limited Western’s scoring opportunities, they couldn’t take advantage on the offensive side, as they either held the ball too long or missed a shot off a cross.

“We were a bit indecisive in the offensive third today and we’re going to work on that,” said Cory Witt, Sonora head coach. “But we’re progressing the way we need to be, I think we’re in a good spot and we’re excited.

The Raiders’ offensive woes began early when forward Giancarlo Oros failed to make a solid touch on a good cross from Andy Araiza in the 9th minute.

The cross skipped off the top of Oros’ foot and out of the box.

Later in the half, Steve Vizarraga dribbled around a defender, leaving Sonora with a two-on-one against Western goalkeeper Victor Lozada, but instead of passing around to Oros, tried a contested shot that missed wide right.

A shot by Jose Murillo late in the half was also grabbed by Lozada.

Western (3-1-1) had its best shot at scoring in the 23rd minute when a breakaway forced Sonora goalkeeper Luis Gonzalez out to challenge.

The ball bounced off Gonzalez and to the left, but the ensuing shot trickled wide right.

“Defensively, I thought we looked good, we kept our shape pretty well and we were supporting each other well,” Witt said. “We need to work a little bit better on collapsing in the middle when we lose the ball and expanding when we have the ball. Those are the two things we’re really working on with these boys. They seemed to want to stay expanded thinking we’re going to get the ball and luckily today we were able to win the ball every time.”

In the second half, a great through ball by Joey Montalvo was negated by an offside call.

Pedro Curiel fired a shot to the upper left corner in the 77th minute, but … was able to get his fingertips on it and poke it above the cross bar.

The game ended after a Pioneer free kick in which Victor Balanzer connected with Rene Santillian for a header, but the ball bounced out just wide right.

“League is just around the corner,” Witt said. “We have three more preseason games, so we’ll get all those kinks out and we’ll be ready to go.”

Sonora (0-2-1) plays its next nonleague game at California High, next Friday at 3 p.m.

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Lady Heralds basketball welcomes new head coach

Posted on 26 December 2013 by La Habra Journal


by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

After coaching the Lady Heralds through the first eight games of the season, Richard Villeza has stepped down as head coach of the Whittier Christian girls basketball program, citing personal reasons according to Athletic Director Rolland Esslinger.

Villeza was in his fourth season as head coach.

Grace Ricafranca, who started the season as Whittier Christian’s junior varsity head coach, has stepped in to fill the varsity spot. Ericka Villeza, daughter of Richard, has joined as junior varsity head coach.

The switch was made on Dec. 16, two days after the Lady Heralds wrapped up the Glenn/Norwalk basketball tournament. Ricafranca had five practices with the girls before they began the Knight Time Classic, Dec. 26.

Ricafranca had previously coached junior varsity basketball at Whittier Christian and came back to the same position before this season after two years away from the program. Esslinger will step in to assist Ricafranca for the remainder of the season.

“We made the decision not to seek someone outside the program because the girls had been learning through this system all year, I didn’t want to change that up before league,” Esslinger said. “Grace has coached with Villeza in club and has worked with him over the summer to get the kids ready so it was logical thing to do.”

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Heralds basketball teams pick up wins in tournament openers

Posted on 26 December 2013 by La Habra Journal

WClogoby Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal


After a 10-day layoff, the Whittier Christian boys’ basketball team relied on the shot of forward Jake Rivera in a 52-43 win over Buena Park, in Thursday night’s pool play game in the Leon Davis Holiday Classic at Whittier Christian High.

In a game featuring aggressive defense from both sides, the Coyotes didn’t account for the 6-foot-6 Rivera’s ability to knock down long range shots as the senior hit six of his nine shots from 3-point range, leading the Heralds with 22 points.

Christian Labadie added 12 points and the Heralds held a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter.

“[Jake] stepped up big, we needed some timely buckets down the stretch,” said Sherwin Durham, Whittier Christian head coach. “We’re most proud of the fact that we got to the free throw line tonight. When we’re running our offense well, that should be the case. Not taking anything away from Jake though, he played an outstanding game.”

Rivera spread the 3-point baskets evenly, hitting three of them in each half. He also led the team with nine rebounds.

After falling behind early in the first quarter, Rivera’s second 3-pointer tied the game at 10-10 and his third put the Heralds up 13-10 to close out the opening quarter.

The Heralds never trailed after that point. Ryan Esslinger and Labadie hit transition baskets and the Heralds’ defense forced five turnovers by the Coyotes in stretching their lead to 26-15 at halftime.

However, Buena Park reduced the gap to single digits in the third quarter thanks to guard June Rodriguez, who scored all of his 15 points in the second half.

Rodriguez scored seven points in the quarter on two transition layups and a deep 3-pointer, but the Heralds responded by finding Jimmy West, who scored two key baskets in the paint to keep the lead comfortable.

“Our goal every night is to go double digit scoring in every quarter,” Durham said. “They may have outscored us in the third quarter, but we stuck with it and fought hard. Jimmy’s still working his way into shape after his football injury, this was only his third game back and he’s working his way into the system.”

Labadie continued to charge with seven points in the fourth quarter to push the lead to double digits once more before Rodriguez hit two more 3-pointers with under a minute remaining.

West, Esslinger and Kaipo Villeza scored six points each in support for Whittier Christian. Buena Park forward Deven Boston finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.

“We try to hold our opponents under 50 points, when we accomplish that we’re 6-0, but if not, we’re 0-4,” Durham said. “We’re normally not a zone team, but we adjusted because they were splitting us and getting some easy baskets. We went to a zone and allowed them to be on the perimeter a bit more because they weren’t shooting effectively.”

The Heralds will play La Verne Lutheran in pool play tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. at Whittier Christian High.


ONTARIO – Armed with a new head coach, the last 10 days have been spent as a transition for the Whittier Christian girls’ basketball team.

In sticking with the theme, the Lady Heralds’ tough full-court defense led to plenty of transition baskets in a 52-15 victory over Montclair, Thursday afternoon in the Knight Time Classic at Ontario Christian High.

Sydney Lopez and Tyler Gibson led the Lady Heralds with 10 points each and Whittier Christian’s defense didn’t give up its first basket until 1:35 into the second quarter.

“We definitely wanted to pressure in the front court because we thought they were a bit weak at ball-handling,” said Grace Ricafranca, Whittier Christian’s new head coach. “We wanted to use that as an advantage. We were looking more to trap them in the half court, but we mostly wanted to slow them down, make them take 15 seconds off the shot clock and force some bad shots.”

In addition to cutting off passing lanes and using quick hands to force 31 turnovers, Whittier Christian (4-5) outrebounded the Lady Cavaliers 40-23, with half of those rebounds coming on the offensive end.

Freshman Christa Evans led the Lady Heralds with eight rebounds, while Lopez and Kyanna Barboza hauled in seven rebounds each.

Lopez and Gibson combined for 16 points in the first half and Whittier Christian led 28-6 at the break, which gave Ricafranca a chance to give reserves plenty of time in the second half.

Of the reserves, Evans, Barboza and Amanda Ashworth finished with seven points each.

The game was Ricafranca’s first as head coach and the result was her first win as varsity head coach.

“Something I’ve wanted to do since I took over is hold the girls to the same standard, I want the girls who aren’t used to playing as much to step up their game,” Ricafranca said.”I felt like this was a great opportunity to find ways to grow. It’s nice in games like this when we can get everyone on the bench to play.”

Guard Selena Lopez led Montclair (2-6) with five points.

Whittier Christian continues pool play in the Knight Time Classic with an afternoon game against Gabrielino, tomorrow at 3 p.m. at Ontario Christian High.


Both soccer teams were also in action Thursday morning and afternoon at Ontario Christian High.

The boys’ varsity team fell to Arrowhead Christian, 2-1 with a goal from Cameron Lund, which was assisted by Juan Carlos Reinis.

The girls’ varsity team fell to Crean Lutheran 2-0. Both goals were scored in the first half.

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Raiders exact a little revenge, repeat as NOCC champions

Posted on 21 December 2013 by La Habra Journal

Sonora's Adam Marlow works against Canyon's Anthony Ballestero in the first half of Sonora's 58-55 NOCC Championship win. Marlow scored 10 points and hit the eventual game-winner with just over 30 seconds remaining. Photos by Jay Seidel, La Habra Journal

Sonora’s Adam Marlow works against Canyon’s Anthony Ballestero in the first half of Sonora’s 58-55 NOCC Championship win. Marlow scored 10 points and hit the eventual game-winner with just over 30 seconds remaining. Photos by Jay Seidel, La Habra Journal

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

If there wasn’t already a major rivalry between the Sonora and Canyon boys’ basketball teams, it may have started after Saturday night’s tilt in the championship game of the North Orange County Championships.

Two weeks ago, Canyon edged the Raiders by two points to win the El Modena Canyon Kickoff Classic championship. Raiders’ head coach Mike Murphy has not been on the bench for Sonora since.

This time, the Raiders returned the favor, overcoming a 14-point third quarter deficit and surviving a wild finish to hand the Comanches their first loss of the season, 58-55 to claim their second consecutive NOCC Championship.

“We just never give up, we lost our coach a couple weeks ago and we’ve just really pulled together as a team,” said Adam Marlow, Sonora senior guard. “I knew we had it in us, it was just a matter of playing hard and playing until the final buzzer.”

Ben Rico led the Raiders (9-2) with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Adam Marlow and center Steven Murphy added 10 points each. Sonora outscored the Comanches 38-25 in the second half.

During a back-and-forth final quarter, Marlow hit a tough runner, which rattled in to give Sonora the lead for good at 57-55 with 36 seconds remaining.

Sonora's Josh Rodriguez hits a layup and is fouled by Canyon's Davante Parker after forcing a turnover in Sonora's 58-55 win, Saturday night. Rodriguez' play was limited due to foul trouble.

Sonora’s Josh Rodriguez hits a layup and is fouled by Canyon’s Davante Parker after forcing a turnover in Sonora’s 58-55 win, Saturday night. Rodriguez’ play was limited due to foul trouble.

The senior then forced a bad shot by Canyon’s Anthony Ballestero on the other end, which forced the Comanches to foul Rico after he grabbed the rebound.

But things didn’t look good for Sonora early on as Canyon (9-1) hauled in 15 offensive rebounds in the first half, leading to a 30-20 score at the break.

Canyon took it’s biggest lead at 38-24 when it forced a turnover, which led to an easy transition layup by Nick Anderson, who was limited to four points after torching the Raiders for 27 points two weeks ago.

“We were just playing really tentative, like we were scared,” said Jason Stein, Sonora interim co-coach. “They just out-hustled us, they’re obviously a really good team. Every 50-50 ball, they got it. They were just crashing the boards harder and we addressed that at halftime, we gave up 15 offensive rebounds in the first half, which is ridiculous.”

On top of the rebounding issues, Josh Rodriguez was in foul trouble and played a limited role, scoring just seven points.

But his exit midway through the third quarter only motivated his teammates further, as Sonora responded with a 16-1 run to take a 40-39 lead with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

The lead was Sonora’s first since Rico opened the game with a 3-pointer.

The Raiders’ full-court press forced turnovers, while on the other end, they were patient and got the ball inside to Murphy, who scored eight of his 10 points in the third quarter.

“Josh went out with foul trouble and it’s just the nature of this team to pull together,” Marlow said. “We were just tired of losing to Canyon, it was good to finally beat them.”

Sonora kept a slight edge thanks to three-point shooting in the fourth quarter. Rico and guard Christian Rhodes both hit long distance shots to keep Sonora on top.

“I think our crowd is bringing us a lot of energy, the student support is great and I don’t think we’ve ever had a crowd like this for a December game,” Stein said. “And I don’t know how else to say it, but we have some ballers. They have a lot of heart.”

Sonora's Ben Rico posts up on Canyon's Nick Anderson during the first half, Saturday night. Rico led all scorers with 18 points.

Sonora’s Ben Rico posts up on Canyon’s Nick Anderson during the first half, Saturday night. Rico led all scorers with 18 points.

But after every big shot Sonora made, Canyon responded immediately by running the floor. Kaleb Phillips hit a 3-pointer and Ballestero followed with a jumper, keeping the pressure on the host Raiders.

Ballestero tied the game at 55-55 with a basket and free throw, but Phillips missed a crucial free throw attempt that would have given Canyon the lead.

“It feels amazing,” Marlow said of the tournament championship. “We were finally able to beat [Canyon] and I think it will just take off from here. We’re on a roll and we’re hoping to continue that.”

Jordan Rohan led the Comanches with 13 points, while Phillips added 11. Ballestero and Davante Parker added 10 points each. Nick Anderson, one of Canyon’s top scorers, was held to just four points, but grabbed 12 rebounds.

All 10 points by Parker came in the second quarter.

All-tournament selections included Canyon’s Anderson and Ballestero and Sonora’s Rico and Marlow. Josh Rodriguez, who scored 41 points in a game earlier this week against Riverside King, was selected as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

“This feels great, but it’s all building on what Mike Murphy has done, he trained us as coaches, he’s training all the players,” Stein said. “He’s led everyone since the spring and we’re just going off what he’s taught us and what he’s taught the players. When we looked at the field for this tournament, it was unbelievable, we thought it would be good to go 3-2, but to win it again and beat Canyon, the No. 3 team in the county, it’s just great.”

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