Highlanders start year off with win

By Bryant Freese
La Habra Journal

La Habra extended its’ winning streak to four games after a 65-51 victory over Vista del Lago High School Wednesday night at La Habra.

The Highlanders started off the game slow, giving up easy points in the paint and multiple offensive rebounds while not being able to create open shots of their own on the offensive end.

“I think they were just so hyped because it was their first home game of the year so a lot of it had to do with some jitters,” said La Habra Head Coach Dave Ploog after the game. “We also had to figure out their speed, they were a very quick team, so once we figured out how to move the ball better we got better shots.”

The Highlanders lack of defense was a problem in the first half of the game, especially early on in the first quarter. Vista del Lago made very few perimeter shots, a majority of their buckets came from inside the paint after blowing past the defense and on offensive rebounds which allowed easy put-backs around the rim.

La Habra was in a full-court press in the first half, which allowed the speed of the guards from Vista del Lago to break the press and create open opportunities in the paint.

Even with Vista Del Lago not making many perimeter shots, the Highlanders trailed 12-11 after the first quarter.

“We talked a lot at halftime about giving them more space and seeing if they could shoot outside, and we even did some zone defense to make them shoot outside.” Ploog said. “I think they only made maybe one three in the whole game, so I think our plan worked to make sure they didn’t get as many shots around the basket.”

A large part of the Highlanders improved play throughout the game was thanks to senior forward Devin Howlin, who led the way for La Habra with 17 points including 11 points in the second quarter on 3/3 shooting from behind the three-point line.

Howlin got open looks for his teammates and hit clutch shots throughout the game to extend the lead for the Highlanders, including a momentum grabbing three-point basket with 10 seconds remaining in the first halftime to give La Habra a 35-28 lead going into the locker room.

“He’s a very explosive player and he’s very fast. The thing he does well is get to the basket and over the course of the game it makes a difference because he can make layup or kick it out for jump shots. When he goes our team goes.” Ploog said of Howlin’s impact on the team.

The Highlanders came out of the locker unsatisfied with their seven point lead, starting off the seconding half with a 4-0 run to extend their lead to 11 points just minutes into the quarter forcing Vista del Lago to call a timeout to regain their composure.

La Habra, however, would not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the game. The Ravens made every effort to narrow the gap but the Highlanders continuously answered back with a basket to hold the lead in double digits until the clock hit zero.

“We’re playing more aggressive, we’re playing more up-tempo. The guys are feeling positive, it’s a lot of energy from the whole team,” Ploog said. “I want to make sure we play with this style, this energy and this attitude that we have going into league, hopefully this will give us some confidence as the league season comes up next week.”

The Highlanders will hit the road for a matchup with California High School Friday night at 6 p.m.

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