Lady Highlanders top Lancers in playoff to secure third in league
By Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
With an automatic playoff berth on the line, the La Habra girls basketball team made a loud statement in a 59-28 home victory over Sunny Hills in a one-game playoff to determine the third place finisher in the Freeway League, Friday afternoon.
Defensive adjustments made by Head Coach Jim Bohn seemed to make a difference, as the Lady Lancers’ two leading scorers were held to six combined points.
“Sunny Hills is a good team and they always give us a run for our money,” Bohn said. “We wanted to get back for the loss last Friday and show what our girls could do in a four-quarter game. Our girls had to make a statement and they did a great job.”
Lizette Martinez was given the task of guarding Sunny Hills’ leading scorer Madison Cruse and in doing so, held Cruse to her lowest scoring output of the season, three points.
Kaili Peko was assigned to guard Justis Simpson and held her to three free throws after she scored a team-high 17 points against Sonora, Thursday night.
“As far as a defensive front, all together, they did fantastic,” Bohn said. “I told Lizette and Kaili their assignments and asked them for their best effort. I think experience from other games against Troy and some others helped out and I told them that I didn’t care about the scoring, I was proud of their defense.”
The moves were made as an attempt to keep Allyson O’Brien and Amy Wilbourn out of foul trouble. The duo, along with Cyrena Gonzalez, all fouled out when the two teams met a week prior.
Consider the switches a success.
O’Brien led the team with 18 points and scored 14 in the second half, but the loudest contribution came from Martinez, who scored a season-high 17 points and nailed seven long jump shots from just inside the 3-point line.
Martinez’ points were crucial in the first half, her six points in the second quarter helped give La Habra a 24-13 halftime lead.
She didn’t let up after the break either, scoring seven points in the third quarter to further the separation.
“I thought Lizette played excellent today on both sides,” Bohn said. “She shot very well, others contributed too and that’s what we need. I thought Cyrena played very well in the post.”
O’Brien took over the reigns in the fourth quarter, draining two 3-pointers early on as part of a 22-point finish by the Lady Highlanders.
The third meeting between schools ended a lot like their first meeting at Sunny Hills High, Jan. 11, with La Habra running away late after a close first quarter.
In both instances, the Lady Highlanders’ defense forced a large number of turnovers, leading to fast break points.
Gonzalez prevented Sunny Hills from scoring points in the paint, as she was able to block or at least alter most close-range shots.
Marjani Knighten led the Lady Lancers with nine points and scored all of them in a 12-point third quarter, Sunny Hills’ most productive quarter of the afternoon.
The Lady Highlanders outscored Sunny Hills 22-3 in the fourth quarter to claim the league’s third and final guaranteed playoff spot in CIF Division 3AAA.
CIF playoff pairings will be released Sunday afternoon and, depending on its ranking, La Habra could still host a first round playoff game.
Regardless of where it’s held, Bohn says his team’s confidence could be back to where it was after La Habra won it’s own Lady Highlander Classic tournament back in December.
“Our team has kind of been on an up-and-down roller coaster,” Bohn said. “I guess you wouldn’t want it any other way, three wins in one week and having others step up now and contributing helps out. I think the confidence that was built this week will help us as we go forward.”