Relentless Lady Heralds force overtime, move on in Division 4A
by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – Behind the duo of Sydney Lopez and freshman Christa Evans in the paint, the Whittier Christian girls’ basketball team fought off St. Margaret’s, earning a momentum-building 53-50 overtime win on the road in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 4A playoffs.
After trailing throughout the first three quarters, Evans grabbed offensive rebounds and went to work, scoring her team’s first eight points of the fourth quarter to give the Lady Heralds their first lead.
Whenever St. Margaret’s double-teamed Lopez, the senior found Evans wide open on the other side of the basket for an easy layup.
“Sydney and I just work really well together,” Evans said. “Every time we’re in the game together, we try to utilize that to the best of our abilities.”
Despite taking the lead, the Lady Heralds allowed the Tartans back in as guard Julianna Coleman hit a three-pointer and guard Yamilli Burgos hit a runner to put St. Margaret’s back on top.
The Lady Heralds (15-11) then crashed the boards a second time, which resulted in six free throw attempts for guard Tyler Gibson.
The junior sank three of them to tie the score at 43-43 and send the game into overtime.
“I like Sydney and Evans in together, but I also like sticking Megan [Kleber] and Makenna Coleman in there because they’re a little quicker defensively,” said Grace Ricafranca, Whittier Christian head coach. “We want to have people that can move on the switch. Going back and forth between that and having the bigs to pound inside, it works really well for us.”
Tammy Adereti immediately put the Lady Heralds back on top with a layup off the opening tip of the period.
Later in the overtime period, Evans battled on the baseline for two tough layups, but Burgos stretched the floor on the Tartans ensuing possession and made it a one-point game.
After failing to convert on a free throw attempt, St. Margaret’s (16-9) rushed down the court with 25 seconds remaining.
However, Adereti intercepted a pass in traffic and Hannah Yoshihara hit two free throws to extend the lead to 53-50 with nine seconds remaining.
Coleman, who had hit four 3-pointers in regulation, missed on a final attempt, allowing the Lady Heralds to escape and move on to the second round.
“This is a really big win for us, I’m really glad we were able to pull it off,” Evans said.
Lopez led the team with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Evans finished with 11 points and nine rebounds off the bench.
Gibson added seven points, including four free throws down the stretch.
“Our bench did a great job coming in today, Evans had some big shots, she was aggressive down low and she helped us get to the free throw line,” Ricafranca said. “Once we started swinging the ball and getting open looks on the inside, I thought we did a great job of looking to score and getting to the free-throw line.”
The Lady Heralds trailed throughout the first three quarters as Burgos and Coleman paced the Tartans offense.
Burgos drove the lane and hit tough bank shots, while Coleman’s shooting forced Whittier Chrsitian to adjust around the perimeter.
Julianna Coleman led the Tartans with 23 points, while Burgos added 20 points.
“[Burgos] is a great player,” Ricafranca said. “She could shoot it from the outside and she could drive to the basket, she really gave us a tough time, but it’s fun for us because we have to figure out how to help with that. All in all, I think it was a good effort defensively.”
Still, Whittier Christian kept pace, trailing by three points at the end of the first quarter and two points at the end of both second and third quarters.
Evans gave the Lady Heralds their first lead with a three-point play to start the fourth quarter.
Whittier Christian will turn its attention to No. 3 St. Joseph’s in a second round game, Saturday at 7 p.m. at Whittier Christian High.
“I think we got a little lucky because we have some experience in overtime games, it seems to be our thing,” Ricafranca said. “They like to rise to the occasion and it’s the same thing almost every game, we like to get into these tough situations where we fight until the end, but these girls are relentless. They’ll do whatever they need to get the win in the end and that’s what happened tonight.”