Sonora boys hoops clinch outright league title, Lady Highlanders add history to rivalry
by Sarah Fenton
La Habra Journal
The Sonora boys’ basketball team beat La Habra, 58-41, and clinched the Freeway League title in the rivalry game at La Habra High School on Tuesday.
Despite the win, Sonora Head Coach Mike Murphy wasn’t pleased with his team’s preparation for the game as evidenced by a tie ballgame at halftime.
“Not very well, obviously,” Murphy said on how the team prepared for the rivalry. “We thought we did, but they definitely outcoached us. Their team was more prepared than us, especially at the beginning of the game. We had a really hard time against that zone and we really never did figure it out.”
La Habra (15-10, 4-5) started the game on top with two consecutive 3-pointers by Justin Jaimez and David Desatoff followed with a layup by Alex Evanoff.
Sonora (23-3, 9-0) fought back by scoring eight points to tie the game with a little over two minutes left in the quarter.
Michael Banks gave the lead back to La Habra with a three-pointer, but Sonora responded with a layup made by Josh Rodriguez.
Desatoff was fouled and made both free throws, but Ben Rico came back with a layup for the Raiders and was fouled on the drive. Rico made the free throw to complete the three-point play.
Banks sank a jump shot at the end of the quarter, giving La Habra the lead, 15-13, going into the second quarter.
Adam Marlow was fouled at the beginning of the second quarter and made both free throws to tie the game, 15-15.
Jaimez responded with a driving layup to give La Habra the lead, but Sonora’s Steven Murphy was fouled shortly after and made both free throws to tie the game, 17-17.
The Highlanders countered with a layup made by Jaimez and a three-pointer by Josh Garcia. Desatoff was fouled with a little over two minutes left in the half, but the fire alarm went off as he was approaching the free throw line.
School officials confirmed that there wasn’t a fire as La Habra’s student section, referred to as the “6th Man Clan,” chanted, “We’re too hot.” Desatoff made one of two free throws, giving La Habra the lead 23-17.
Sonora came back at the end of the quarter and tied the game, 27-27, going into halftime.
“We went over what we could do against their zone to try to get some shots,” Murphy said. “We’ve really been struggling. We can’t make any shots and it’s been frustrating because we’ve had good looks, so hopefully we can shake out of that slump before the playoffs.”
Sonora started the second half with a shot made by Rodriguez, but La Habra’s Zach Gray responded with a baseline drive for a layup.
The Raiders scored six consecutive points, four by Rodriguez and two from Rico. La Habra returned with a long three-pointer made by David Desatoff, cutting Sonora’s lead to 36-32.
Sonora pushed the ball on offense and scored 11 consecutive points at the end of the quarter. Sonora led, 47-35, going into the final half.
The Raiders started the fourth quarter with two baskets made by Marlow and a reverse layup by Roy Saucedo. Adam Cooley responded with a layup, but Sonora continued to lead, 53-37.
The Highlanders fought hard to try to regain the lead but the Raiders’ defense stayed strong, allowing them to clinch the win and the league title.
“Defensively we have to give them credit because they made good shots,” said David Ploog, La Habra head coach. “They made eight in a row to start the third quarter, made some big threes, but we didn’t come out with the energy we needed in the third quarter. They got a couple of offensive rebounds and put-backs and that hurt us. We were a little flat defensively in the third quarter.”
Rico led Sonora in scoring with 18 points.
The Highlanders will finish fourth in the Freeway League this season, after Troy’s win over Sunny Hills forced a tie between the two for second place. Both teams sit two games ahead of the Highlanders with one game remaining.
La Habra’s next game will be against Buena Park on Thursday at Buena Park High School.
“They’re really physical, so we have to be sure to play them real tough and meet their physicality at their place,” Ploog said. “They always play well at Buena Park. We have to come out and really have a good practice tomorrow and get ready for their physical play and work on our defense and our offensive plays to get ready for that.”
Sonora’s next game will be again Sunny Hills at home on Thursday.
“The next game is Sunny Hills so it’s a tough prep there,” Murphy said. “They’re so fast and they’re so quick. We’re just going to get together tomorrow at practice and get ready for Sunny Hills.”
History was made as the La Habra girls’ basketball team beat Sonora, 48-45, on Tuesday night at La Habra High School. The Lady Highlanders swept the Lady Raiders for the first time since 1997.
La Habra (14-10, 7-2) got off to a rough start in the first quarter, allowing Sonora to score the first four points of the game.
Megan Chancellor scored the first two points for La Habra, but Meghann Henderson responded with two consecutive steals for layups, giving Sonora (10-14, 3-6) the lead, 8-2.
Late in the first quarter Lizette Martinez sank a baseline jump shot, but was pushed out of bounds and fouled. Martinez made the free throw to complete the three-point play. However, Sonora led, 17-7, going into the second quarter.
Ashleigh Bessler stepped up defensively for La Habra and had two big blocks within seconds of each other, allowing the Lady Highlanders to regain possession of the ball.
“I’m glad they didn’t call them fouls,” said Ashleigh Bessler. “They usually do because I’m so much bigger so they usually call them fouls every time. They game was aggressive, but it made me want to play harder because I was getting angry.”
La Habra pushed the ball on offense and scored on three consecutive possessions. With a little over three minutes left in the half, Martinez faked out her defender and sank a jump shot. La Habra trailed Sonora 17-15.
The Lady Raiders responded with a layup and three-pointer, both made by Henderson.
Still trailing Sonora, Emma Zener sank a three-pointer with a little over a minute left in the quarter, giving the Lady Highlanders the momentum they needed to fight back on offense.
Martinez followed with a layup, assisted by Kaili Peko and Larissa Maehara ended the quarter with a three-pointer, giving La Habra the lead 24-23 going into halftime.
“I wanted to let them know that the first three minutes of this next quarter are the most important,” said Jim Bohn, La Habra head coach. “You have to own that and I thought we did that well. At the end we looked like a young team, turning it over and playing right into their game and I give them credit. Sonora stuck in there and they played hard.”
Henderson was the first to score in the third quarter, giving Sonora the lead.
The game got physical and the crowd got rowdy towards the end of the quarter as both teams battled for the lead.
La Habra played hard on offense and Amanda Cuervo drove through defenders for a layup with less than two minutes remaining in the quarter, giving The Lady Highlanders the lead, 34-25.
The intensity increased as the game got aggressive and Sonora’s head coach, Melissa Barajas, was given a double technical and kicked out of the game after walking on the court to talk to the referee following a called foul.
Zener made three of the four technical free throws for La Habra. The Lady Highlanders continued their lead, 38-28, going into the final quarter.
Chancellor started the fourth quarter with a layup assisted by Bessler and Maehara followed by sinking a jump shot, which advanced the score to 42-28.
But Barajas’ ejection served to fire up the Lady Raiders, as Sonora fought back on offense and scored eight points in a row at the end of the quarter.
Martinez came back with a layup under the basket, but Sonora responded with two free throws by Henderson and a layup by Lauren Nakahara. The Lady Raiders trailed, 45-42, with less than a minute left in the game.
Sonora fought to try to regain the lead at the end of the quarter, but the Lady Highlanders’ defense stayed strong as the time expired on the clock.
Zener led La Habra in scoring with 14 points and Martinez followed with 13 points. Henderson led Sonora in scoring with 21 points.
La Habra’s next game will be against Buena Park on Thursday at Buena Park High School.
“We have to get in the gym tomorrow and try to get our feet back on the ground,” Bohn said. “It’s important, we want to finish out league, 8-2, and Buena Park is not going to just give it to us. We have to go over there and compete. I want to make sure they’re grounded, that way we get ourselves into the playoff mode next week.”
Sonora, which swept La Habra last season, will host Sunny Hills in its season finale, Thursday night.