By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal
Senior Devin Howlin hit a floater in the paint with :16 left to cap the La Habra’s 64-63 upset over rival Sonora Friday night, snapping the Highlanders 21-game losing streak in Freeway League play.
It was a back and forth battle all night, with neither team extending the lead past 6 points the entire second half. The grueling matchup took its toll on both sides, but La Habra appeared to be the fresher team down the stretch, getting to most of the loose balls and forcing turnovers.
“Sonora is such a great team and they have a great program, so I felt like we had to play loose,” said Dave Ploog La Habra head coach. “In this city rivalry you can tense up, so our game plan was to be loose and get the shots we wanted.”
The Raiders held a 63-60 lead with just over a minute to play. After center Austin Carter missed a pair of free-throws, the Highlanders cut it to one point with just :30 on the clock.
It appeared Sonora would have the opportunity to hold for the final shot, or perhaps force La Habra to foul, but the Highlander defense forced a turnover.
“We talked a lot about having a high level of energy and really playing intense,” Ploog added.
Instead of intentionally fouling, the Highlanders trapped Sean Murphy a couple feet behind the 3-point line and the refs called him for sliding his pivot foot.
“We pride ourselves this year on playing hard pressure defense” Ploog said. “I think that over the course of a game pressuring them, it forces them to make some mistakes.”
The costly turnover paved the way for Howlin’s game-winner.
“Towards the end of the game we called Devin’s number and we asked him what he wanted to do, because we want to trust our guys and their play,” Ploog said. “He wanted to take his guy one on one, he trusted his jump shot and hit a big shot for us.”
Murphy had a chance at redemption with an open look from straight away, but his shot rimmed out as time expired.
“I think we just came out flat tonight, we might have underestimated them a little bit,” Murphy said.
Sonora held a narrow lead as time ticked down in third quarter as well, but in a bit of foreshadowing Howlin drove down the lane and scored with :17 on the clock to put his team up 49-48 heading into the fourth.
“Devin’s been our leading scorer this season, he’s our leader, our best rebounder,” Ploog said of his captian.
Howlin lead all scorers with 23 points and also had a team-best 9 rebounds.
Kevin Marlow scored a team-high 21 points, and Carter had a double-double with 13 and 10 for the Raiders.
La Habra (7-11, 1-1) will continue Freeway League play Tuesday night when they host Buena Park (16-2, 0-1).
Sonora (17-3, 1-1) will look to get back on track when they host Sunny Hills (12-8, 1-1) Tuesday night.
“The good thing about basketball though, is we get to play them again at home in a couple weeks,” Murphy said.