Heralds break away late, girls hoops suffers tough overtime loss to league rival
by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
After maintaining a slim lead through three quarters of a defensive battle, the Whittier Christian boys’ basketball team exploded in the fourth quarter, running away from Valley Christian in a 53-33 league victory, Friday night at home.
The Heralds took control after a technical foul that was assessed to the Crusaders turned into a quick 5-0 swing that put Whittier Christian up by double digits.
After the technical foul was called, Kaipo Villeza hit two free throws and then drained a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession.
“I think we’re looking good, especially against zone defenses,” Villeza said. “Our offense against 2-3 zones is working well, we’re hitting the short corner or going to the high post to Jake [Rivera], we’re just finding our wings, which I think opens things up for our big guys.”
Jake Rivera scored eight of his team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter and Villeza added seven of his 13 points as the Heralds outscored Valley Christian 21-7 to close out the game.
Whittier Christian (13-6, 2-1) also took advantage of its size as Stephen Nolin hauled in four offensive rebounds and Shawn Stolt added two rebounds on the offensive end, which led to second chance opportunities.
Once again, Head Coach Sherwin Durham switched Rivera and Stolt for Stephen Nolin and Jimmy West and for the second consecutive game, it didn’t hinder the offense.
“I think we had confidence in our high-low game, we have players that can hit the free throw shot or pass it down to the low post knowing that they can finish,” Durham said. “It makes the game a little easier. We’re always trying to establish the inside-out type of game where if we get the inside going, then we can kick it out to guys with open looks.”
The Heralds stayed consistent on offense in the first half, putting up 12 points in each of the first and second quarters.
For the second consecutive game, Villeza got the Heralds started early, scoring six of the team’s first eight points with two 3-pointers.
“I feel like I’ve been more confident in the second part of the season,” Villeza said. “I’m not thinking about shots as much, it’s just catch-and-shoot.”
Valley Christian (9-13, 1-3) pulled within one point late in the second quarter after guard Stedmon Bryant hit his third 3-pointer of the half, but the Heralds’ got baskets by Nolin and Rivera to push the lead to 24-19 at halftime.
After a low-scoring third quarter, Valley Christian’s Vaj Rice got tangled up with Nolin during a Heralds’ possession leading to a pushing foul called against Nolin early in the fourth quarter.
However, on the way back, Rice’s talking led to the technical foul. Rice, who is the team’s leading scorer, was held to six points.
“After that happened, I think the crowd got into it and we started to believe that it could be our night,” Durham said. “We try to back away from those deals. Rice was chipping away all night…. We wanted to make Rice go to his right, because he’s dangerous with his left. We didn’t think he was as polished going the other way and it worked out.”
Rushing to get back in the game, the Crusaders attempted to trap the Heralds on offense, but that led to two Rivera 3-pointers as the senior was left alone on the wing.
The Heralds cruised to the win from there.
“I think they’re a better team than they showed tonight,” Durham said of Valley Christian. “Their main player was hurting a little bit and they had to slow down and bring him in and out.”
Whittier Christian will head north to take on league-favored Village Christiain, Tuesday night at Village Christian School.
“Most people would not see us on the winning side, so we feel like we have nothing to lose,” Villeza said. “We’re just going to go in and play our hardest and hope for the best.”
In a game fitting of the intense Olympic League rivalry between schools, the Whittier Christian girls’ basketball team suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss to Valley Christian, 41-40, Friday night at Whittier Christian High.
Makenna Mageo hit a game-winning free throw with 12 seconds remaining in the overtime period.
The Lady Heralds attempted a long jumper, but it bounced off the rim and Christa Evans couldn’t put the rebound back in time and Valley Christian escaped with the win.
The game was back-and-forth throughout, with the Lady Crusaders (10-12, 3-1) taking the lead and running with it in the second quarter, only to watch Whittier Christian storm out of the gates in the third quarter and reclaim the lead.
However, the Lady Crusaders would steal the lead back on Cherilyn De Jong’s jump shot, putting Valley Christian up 35-33 late in the fourth quarter.
Tyler Gibson tied it for the Lady Heralds by stealing a pass and fighting through traffic in the lane to put in a layup.
Sydney Lopez put the Lady Heralds’ up early in the overtime period, but fouled out with 22 seconds remaining.
Mageo answered with a layup and free throw for Valley Christian. After the Lady Heralds tied it on free throws by Prisicilla Zamorano, Mageo hit the eventual game-winner.
Lopez led the Lady Heralds (10-8, 1-2) with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Zamorano scored 11 points.
Mageo led Valley Christian with 14 points, while forward Amanda Chamberlain added 11.
After falling behind 20-14 early in the third quarter, the Lady Heralds went on a 13-0 run with seven points coming from Lopez and the other six on 3-pointers by McKenna Whan and Zamorano.
Leading by six points, the Lady Heralds went cold in the fourth quarter, hitting just one shot from the floor, which allowed Valley Christian to come back.
Whittier Christian will try to turn things around when it heads up to Village Christian, Tuesday night at 6 p.m.