Sports

Heralds basketball teams pick up wins in tournament openers

WClogoby Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

BOYS VARSITY BASKETBALL

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.

GIRLS VARSITY BASKETBALL

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.

WHITTIER CHRISTIAN SOCCER

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.

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.