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Heralds give Village Christian all it can handle in close loss

Posted on 29 January 2014 by La Habra Journal

Christian Labadie (shown here against Troy) finished with a team-high 17 points by carving through the defense and hitting tough layups.

Christian Labadie (shown here against Troy) finished with a team-high 17 points by carving through the defense and hitting tough layups.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

SUN VALLEY – Leaving everything on the floor, the Whittier Christian boys’ basketball team nearly shocked the Olympic League, but fell to a favored Village Christian team 65-58, Tuesday night at Village Christian School.

The Heralds used quick ball movement to open up the floor offensively and stuck to its game plan of using the high-low post game to keep the pressure on the Crusaders throughout.

“We really talked about shocking the world today,” said Sherwin Durham, Whittier Christian head coach. “Just a couple little mistakes here and there did us in, but I love my guys, they gave us the effort and they gave them all they wanted tonight. Our system is working for us, hopefully it’s uphill from here.”

Down by double-digits in the second and third quarters, the Heralds fought back and reduced the deficit to as low as three points after Jake Rivera hit a 3-pointer and subsequent free throw with 1:29 remaining in the game.

After a pair of free throws put the Crusaders back up by five points, Ryan Esslinger’s 3-point attempt rimmed out and Village Christian escaped with the victory.

Sophomore guard Christian Labadie led the Heralds with 17 points and was fearless on offense, constantly driving in for acrobatic layups despite a major size disadvantage.

Rivera added 11 points and forward Jimmy West came off the bench to put up nine points, seven of which were scored on long jumpers.

“He was pumped for the game, I kind of looked at my guys’ eyes before the game to see if there was any fear in there and I didn’t see any, and he came out with the effort and it trickled down to everybody else,” Durham said of Labadie. “As far as the acrobatic shots, we’ll take that as a sophomore, but we’re hoping they’ll be stronger during his junior and senior seasons.”

Jimmy West had a strong game with nine points off the bench in the Heralds loss at Village Christian, Tuesday night.

Jimmy West had a strong game with nine points off the bench in the Heralds loss at Village Christian, Tuesday night.

However, the Crusaders (16-3, 4-0) retaliated with Bear Henderson and Bennie Boatwright, who put up 19 and 17 points respectively.

Forward Marsalis Johnson, who put up a triple-double against the Heralds last year at VCS, scored just nine points and fouled out in the fourth quarter.

“We had Johnson in foul trouble early, so we wanted to bring him out a little bit and if he was down low, work against him,” Durham said. “We wanted to take one of their big guys away from them and make their coach go to the bench. Our defense is the strong suit of our team this year, when we need stops we’re able to get them.”

Labadie set the tone early for the Heralds, scoring seven of the team’s 13 first quarter points as Whittier Christian trailed 16-13 at the end of the first quarter.

Behind Boatwright’s 3-point shooting, the Crusaders pushed the lead to 32-16 midway through the second quarter.

However, West led a Heralds charge late in the half with seven points, including a 3-pointer. Rivera added four points in the quarter as Whittier Christian reduced the deficit to 34-26 at halftime.

“When the high post is able to knock down shots, it opens up things down low,” Durham said. “That’s been working for us a lot lately. We aren’t content with the loss, but we are content with the effort.”

The Crusaders again pushed the lead to double digits behind Henderson’s five third quarter points.

But the Heralds (13-7, 2-2) saved the best for the final quarter. Whittier Christian reduced the deficit to six points with five minutes remaining. Shawn Stolt found room inside for four points, while Labadie continued to carve through the defense for four more.

Then after Johnson’s fifth foul, a technical foul was called against Village Christian coach Jon Shaw, which led to three made free throws and possession.

Later in the quarter, Rivera’s four-point play pushed the Heralds to its smallest deficit at 61-58 before guard Jerrick Ahanmisi hit two free throws and Matt Shashaty hit a layup at the buzzer.

Ryan Esslinger scored six of his eight points in the fourth quarter and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.

The Heralds came into the contest as winners of nine of their last 11 games. Durham hopes that the result will prove to his team that they can compete with anyone in the league moving forward.

Whittier Christian hosts Heritage Christian, Friday night at 7:30 p.m. The Heralds defeated Heritage Christian 57-54 on the road, Jan. 16.

“I think we’ve got respect, we’re just going to keep taking it one game at a time,” Durham said. “I think my guys need a little rest, so we’ll go light and then really start preparing on Thursday. We still want to perfect that high-low game because I think we’ll see a little more zone. They also have a big man, so we’ll see if we can get him in foul trouble and make them work the bench.”

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Heralds run past Loara with second half push

Posted on 20 January 2014 by La Habra Journal

Jake Rivera led a Heralds' third-quarter push by scoring eight of his team-high 14 points in a 59-51 nonleague win over Loara, Monday afternoon on the road.

Jake Rivera led a Heralds’ third-quarter push by scoring eight of his team-high 14 points in a 59-51 nonleague win over Loara, Monday afternoon on the road.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

Hoping to tune up its offensive gameplan against zone defenses, the Whittier Christian boys’ basketball team found a gold mine on the baseline in a 59-51 victory over Loara, Monday afternoon at Loara High.

Though the Heralds had some trouble finishing around the basket, it didn’t deter them from dominating the third quarter and taking a relatively smooth nonleague victory.

“That was a tribute to our defense, we came out and gave them 17 points in the first quarter and that wasn’t acceptable,” said Sherwin Durham, Whittier Christian head coach. “I felt our defense really started to kick in during the second quarter. Defensively, we need to transition into some easy buckets for the offense and that was the case today.”

Jake Rivera was a big part of that one-sided third quarter, scoring eight of his team-high 14 points. Christian Labadie and Kaipo Villeza added 13 points each. Stephen Nolin chipped in with nine points and seven rebounds for Whittier Christian while three others contributed with six rebounds.

With the game tied 28-28 early in the third quarter, Labadie hit a 3-pointer and Rivera hit three consecutive easy shots inside for the first of two 9-0 runs by the Heralds, which stretched the lead to 46-32.

Villeza, Shawn Stolt and Branden Osborn combined for the second run.

In addition to fine-tuning the offense, Durham took an opportunity to get extended playing time for some of his bench players, mainly the big men.

Rivera and Stolt paired up to start the game, but Nolin and Jimmy West both earned plenty of minutes and the Heralds’ offense didn’t skip a beat.

“We have some guys that can fill the ball from the top of the key and we have some good post players,” Durham said. “When the perimeter game isn’t what we would like it to be, then we can get that inside presence, get them some touches and see what we can do with it. I like the way we’re sharing the basketball.”

Guard Christian Labadie (pictured), along with Ryan Esslinger, led the Heralds in assists with four each as they fed the forwards along the baseline during the Heralds' 59-51 win over Loara.

Guards Christian Labadie (pictured) and Ryan Esslinger led the Heralds in assists with four each as they fed the forwards along the baseline during the Heralds’ 59-51 win over Loara.

Villeza got the Heralds going early, scoring the team’s first seven points. Rivera hit a pair of 3-pointers to help build a 17-11 lead.

In addition, Labadie and Esslinger consistently zipped a pass to the baseline, where all four big men found plenty of space to work throughout the game.

“I like to watch game film of opponents to see what they’ll give us and that was one of the things we noticed,” Durham said. “They like to give up the low baseline, so the high-low action that we had paid dividends for us today.”

However, led by wing player Isaiah Merrill, the Saxons (9-11) clawed back. Merrill scored nine of his game-high 18 points in the first quarter, trimming the Heralds’ lead to 18-17 after one quarter.

Realizing Merrill’s ability to create shots, Durham made a defensive switch and gave Ryan Esslinger the task of guarding Loara’s big shooter.

The result was a combined two points in the second and third quarters, which allowed Whittier Christian (12-6) to maintain either a lead or tie.

“Ryan’s one of our better defensive players and even though we gave up some size with that matchup, he made up for it with heart,” Durham said. “I think he triggers our defense, they see he’s energized in trying to stop our opponent’s top scorer and I think they feed off that.”

The Heralds maintained the one-point lead at halftime before breaking away in the third quarter. Nolin scored six points in the fourth quarter to keep the lead comfortable down the stretch.

In addition to leading the team in scoring, Merrill hauled in a team-high five rebounds. Guard Edson Velasquez added 13 points for the Saxons.

Whittier Christian will try to incorporate a portion of this afternoon’s gameplan when it goes back into league play at home against Valley Christian, Friday at 7:30 p.m.

“We expect to see some zone against Valley as well, so fine-tuning the zone offense was something we really need to focus on come Friday night,” Durham said. “They like to pressure and they’re pretty young, but they have some talent. When you play Valley though, you throw out all the records and all scouting reports because they’re our rival. We just take it one game at a time. If we focus too much on the fact that it’s Valley, we’ll come out flat and over-anxious to play the game.”

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Fast first half by Cal spoils home opener for Highlanders

Posted on 10 January 2014 by La Habra Journal

Adam Cooley, pictured against La Serna, led the Highlanders with 21 points, eight of which were scored in the fourth quarter of La Habra's loss to Cal, Friday night at home.

Adam Cooley, pictured against La Serna, led the Highlanders with 21 points, eight of which were scored in the fourth quarter of La Habra’s loss to Cal, Friday night at home.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

When the La Habra boys’ basketball team fell behind by upwards of 21 points against California in the second quarter, the focus was to try to chip away and take it one possession at a time.

Despite falling to the Condors 70-63, the Highlanders (10-5) shrunk an 18-point halftime deficit to just six points with 1:14 remaining in the fourth quarter and can carry some positive momentum into Freeway League play, which opens up next Wednesday.

“We responded well and if nothing else, we can take that away from this game,” said Dave Ploog, La Habra head coach. “In the first half, we couldn’t match their speed, so we talked at halftime about taking it possession by possession and just staying in front of them, making them shoot over us because of our length and it made a big difference.”

Down by 16 points heading into the fourth quarter, the Highlanders went on a 16-6 run in the fourth quarter, with eight of those points coming from Adam Cooley, to shrink the lead to 65-59.

But the magic ran out as Cooley missed three free throws after being fouled on an attempted 3-pointer and the Condors held on, avenging a loss to La Habra in its season opener.

Cooley, who hit his first six free throws in the fourth quarter, led La Habra with 21 points while battling foul trouble along with guards Zach Gray and Justin Jaimez.

All three players had three fouls each before halftime. Gray fouled out with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

“It does affect us, we have to stay out of foul trouble in order to stay in games,” Ploog said. “A lot of our fouls were unnecessary, they were away from the basket and that’s where we have to be smart. The same thing happened against Tesoro, this is the second game we’ve been stuck in foul trouble and it costs us when we don’t have our starters on the floor.”

Peter Hutchinson came off the bench to score 10 points for the Highlanders and Alex Evanoff hauled in eight rebounds, four of them on the offensive side.

While the Highlanders finished strong, the Condors immediately quieted the crowd in La Habra’s home opener.

Forward Carlos Legaspy took control early with 10 first-quarter points. However, a basket by forward Brady Gravitt gave Cal its biggest lead of the quarter at 17-7. Gravitt also secured a team-high 11 rebounds.

Cal (10-5) only got stronger in the second quarter. Point guard Jake Mata seized momentum with three 3-pointers and five free throws, leading the Condors to a 48-30 lead at halftime.

Mata scored 19 points, leading a trio of Condors who scored in double digits. Legaspy added 16 points and guard Anthony Rodriguez scored 12 points.

A jump shot by Rodriguez gave Cal its biggest lead at 43-22 late in the second quarter.

“More than anything it was our first home game and the kids were amped up to be here,” Ploog said. “We didn’t play smart because of that. We played excited, but that didn’t translate into smart basketball and in the first half that cost us, they had too many open jumpers and give credit to Cal, they hit a lot of tough shots, which surprised us. It was hard to recover after that.”

The Highlanders focused on their defense for the third quarter while putting Cal in foul trouble on the offensive side.

While it didn’t net much of a difference in the deficit, the Condors’ outside shooters went cold and Cal put La Habra in the bonus early in the fourth quarter, which the Highlanders turned into nine made free throws.

Jaimez hit a 3-pointer, his lone basket of the game, to cut the lead to six points, but La Habra got no closer.

The Highlanders (10-5) now focus their attention to the Freeway League, where they open up on the road against Fullerton, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

“In the second half, we did the things we were supposed to do, we moved the ball well, kept them in front, we rebounded better and got more steals,” Ploog said. “If we can play like that for an entire game, we’ll stay in control. Tonight, we weren’t in control in the first half and it cost us, so I think that’s what we need to take away is trying to keep control.”

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Late burst lifts the Raiders over La Mirada again

Posted on 03 January 2014 by La Habra Journal

Josh Rodriguez gets past La Mirada's Lucio Bolado and puts up a runner in the first half of the Raiders' 85-79 win at home, Friday night.

Josh Rodriguez gets past La Mirada’s Lucio Bolado and puts up a runner in the first half of the Raiders’ 85-79 win at home, Friday night.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

In what turned into a wild sprint toward the finish line, the Sonora boys’ basketball team handed La Mirada a second loss this season by outlasting the Matadores in the fourth quarter en route to an 85-79 win at home, Friday night.

With the score tied at the end of three quarters, the Raiders put up 30 points in the fourth quarter and jumped out to a nine-point lead in just over three minutes.

“They’re really mentally tough, nothing scares them or throws them for a loop,” Sonora interim co-coach Jason Stein said of his team’s fourth-quarter mentality. “They’re just competitors, kind of the John Wooden idea of competitive greatness, give your best when the best is needed and they did that tonight.”

Ben Rico led the charge for Sonora, scoring 10 of his game-high 31 points in the quarter. Josh Rodriguez added support with eight of his 21 points scored in the final frame. Rodriguez added seven assists.

In all, four players scored in double digits for Sonora. Adam Marlow and Christian Rhodes scored 13 points each and the Raiders hit 12 3-pointers, six of which were made in the first quarter.

“Josh has the ability to go off on any given night and has had a couple big games, but Ben has been our leading scorer all season and he made some big shots tonight,” Stein said. “Adam, Christian and Steven [Murphy] all have the ability to have big nights too. We have a lot of guys who can score.”

But the Matadores (8-7) never went away due in large part to Lucio Bolado’s 17 second-half points. Bolado connected on all three of his field goal tries in the third quarter, two from beyond the arc, to help La Mirada pull even with Sonora at 55-55 at the end of the third quarter.

However, early 3-pointers by Rico and Rodriguez, along with a jump shot and three free throws by Rhodes fueled the Raiders to an 11-2 run to start the fourth quarter.

Despite being challenged, the Raiders (13-3) never trailed after that point.

“They stuck together and knew they had to do this as a team,” Stein said. “It’s not going to be one individual, we have to do it together. The guys pick each other up. Tonight wasn’t Steven Murphy’s best game, but he played great for us in San Diego. Roy Saucedo was able to fill in for him and play great defense for us tonight.”

Sonora's Roy Saucedo works with the ball at the perimeter while La Mirada's Dezmon Murphy applies pressure during the first half of Sonora's 85-79 win, Friday night at home.

Sonora’s Roy Saucedo works with the ball at the perimeter while La Mirada’s Dezmon Murphy applies pressure during the first half of Sonora’s 85-79 win, Friday night at home.

Both teams benefited from 8-0 runs in the first quarter, but it was Sonora’s long-range shooting that made the difference. Rico and Rhodes each showcased their range with a pair of 3-pointers, but it was Marlow’s eight points that helped Sonora gain a 25-20 lead.

However, behind 6-foot-8 Kendall Lauderdale, La Mirada clawed back in the second and third quarters. Lauderdale went to work inside, scoring seven of his 20 points in the second quarter. He also hauled in a game-high 13 rebounds.

Bolado finished with a team-high 24 points, while Dezmon Murphy and Vittorio Reynoso-Avila also scored in double digits with 18 and 11 points, respectively.

Sonora held a 41-38 lead at halftime thanks to an 11-point second quarter from Rico, who hit five of his seven shots in the quarter. He was held in check in the third quarter before erupting in the fourth.

The Raiders are 2-0 at home against La Mirada this season. Sonora defeated the Matadores 62-49 in the semifinals of the North Orange County Championships last month.

“They’re good, I figured both teams would shoot it better and we knew they would make adjustments and that it would be tough to get them again,” Stein said. “It was a big advantage playing them at home again, I think it would have been really tough to play at their place. They have some studs on their team, it was a really good win.”

Sonora prepares for one final nonleague game against Dana Hills in the North/South OC Challenge, tomorrow at 6 p.m. at El Toro High.

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Heralds edged by Troy for Leon Davis Christmas Classic championship

Posted on 31 December 2013 by La Habra Journal

Christian Labadie looks to finish strong while Troy's Josh Carnesi attempts to get a hand on the ball during the second half of a 59-51 Troy win, Monday night in the Leon Davis Christmas Classic Championship game.

Christian Labadie looks to finish strong while Troy’s Josh Carnesi attempts to get a hand on the ball during the second half of a 59-51 Troy win, Monday night in the Leon Davis Christmas Classic Championship game.

by Jeremiah Girard
La Habra Journal

A pair of runs by the Troy Warriors proved to be too much for the Whittier Christian boys basketball team as it fell 59-51 in the championship game of the Leon Davis Christmas Classic, Monday night at home.

The second run was the back-breaker, as the Warriors turned a tie ballgame into a 10-point lead to close out the third quarter.

“Troy executed their game much better than we did tonight,” said senior guard and captain, Ryan Esslinger. “We did not play our best, but they played a great game.”

The Warriors came out hot and jumped out to a 9-0 lead over the Heralds. Whittier Christian spent the rest of the game trying to battle back and was never able to have the lead at any point.

The Heralds’ comeback effort was led by junior guard Kaipo Villeza. In the first half alone, he knocked down four three-point shots and went into the break with 12 points.

He was matched shot for shot by Troy’s Chad Rollins, who also made four three pointers in the first half. Both finished the game with a game-high 17 points, and five made three pointers.

Troy (10-5) was able to do an excellent job containing the Heralds’ leading scorer, Jake Rivera. He was held scoreless in the first half and only scored 10 points in the second, which was under his season average of 15.9 points per game.

However, even with no point production from Rivera in the first half, the Heralds (8-5) kept pace with Troy in the second quarter and had a manageable 29-25 deficit heading into the half.

“We can definitely look back and say that we fought hard tonight,” Esslinger said. “We definitely just need to cut down on mistakes and keep the intensity up.

In the third quarter, the Heralds came back to force a tie. Immediately after, the Warriors rattled off a 10- run and shut down any thoughts of a comeback for the Heralds.

Even though the Heralds outscored Troy 18-16 in the final quarter it was not enough. Esslinger fouled out with less than two minutes left and finished with 10 points.

“When we look back at this tournament, it will definitely be a positive experience for this team,” Esslinger said. “We were able to pull off a five-game winning streak and get some positive momentum heading into league.”

Whittier Christian will open up league play on January 14 at home against Marantha, at 7 p.m, but will first play a nonleague game at La Serna, this Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

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Highlanders keep up scoring pace, roll past Warren

Posted on 30 December 2013 by La Habra Journal

Zach Gray (shown here against La Serna) led the Highlanders with 26 points in a 79-65 win over Warren, Saturday at Whittier High.

Zach Gray (shown here against La Serna) led the Highlanders with 26 points in a 79-65 win over Warren, Saturday at Whittier High.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

WHITTIER – Using a formula similar to its Saturday win, the La Habra boys’ basketball team wrapped up the 4th Annual Whittier Holiday Invitational with a high-powered 79-65 victory over Warren of Downey, Monday afternoon at Whittier High.

The Highlanders started the contest on an 8-0 run, hit four of their first five shots and never trailed in finishing the tournament with a 3-1 record.

“That’s been huge, we’ve been talking as a group about moving the ball and that we’ll get good shots if we keep moving it around,” Ploog said of his team’s quick start. “To come out and have starts like that helps everything, our flow, our confidence. We weren’t getting that in the beginning of the year, but now I feel like we’re getting more comfortable with our shot and playing with each other.”

Zach Gray evenly spread his team-high 26 points across all four quarters, while Adam Cooley and Michael Banks also scored in double figures with 17 and 13 points, respectively.

Cooley hauled in a team-high seven rebounds and five different players had at least two assists.

The Highlanders’ defense held Warren to 15 points or less in all but one quarter and forced 12 turnovers.

Banks was also a key contributor with five rebounds, two blocks and three steals.

“Defensively, with his length, we’ve been talking with him about not jumping,” Ploog said. “He loves to jump, but it gets him out of position, but with his size and length, if he just stays down he’s always in a good position and he was able to get tips and some good rebounds on the defensive end.”

Gray opened the game with a 3-pointer, which was followed by a steal and dunk by Banks and another 3-pointer by Cooley. After the Bears scored their first basket, Justin Jaimez drained another 3-pointer to give the Highlanders an early 11-2 lead.

However, in the second quarter, Warren (5-7) was sparked by guards D’Caron Anderson and Shree Narkar, who combined for six 3-pointers and pulled even with La Habra at one point, 33-33 after Narkar drained his fourth long-distance shot. The duo scored 20 of the Bears’ 26 second-quarter points.

Anderson led the Bears with 24 points, while Narkar added 15 points on five 3-pointers.

However, Banks countered with a trio of nice drives inside and Peter Hutchinson drained a pair of jump shots to keep La Habra ahead 43-38 at halftime.

But the Highlanders (10-3) came out strong defensively in the third quarter, holding Anderson without a field goal, though he did hit seven free throws.

“We talked at halftime about switching all our screens,” Ploog said. “They would screen, and then screen the guy who was screening, which got us confused. We just started switching every screen, which made it hard for them to get that first easy pass because we were out on the perimeter. It hindered our rebounding a bit, but it helped because we were pressuring the shooters faster.”

Cooley and Banks scored five points and hauled in two offensive rebounds each in the quarter, while Gray hit another 3-pointer as the Highlanders extended the lead to nine points heading into the fourth quarter.

The lead remained in the high single digits until Warren Head Coach Ryan Hart was whistled twice for technical fouls for arguing, which allowed Gray to hit four consecutive free throws. Adam Cooley scored a layup on the ensuing possession for a quick 6-0 La Habra swing.

La Habra used bench players from that point on in cruising to its second consecutive double-digit win.

“I think we stayed consistent on defense, which is our key,” Ploog said. “Sometimes it’s hard night after night to play, but I still think we’re a good defensive team. We’re progressing in our offense in terms of knowing who our shooters are, where to shoot and we’ve worked on our free throws too, we just want to keep improving.”

The Highlanders will head to El Toro High on Thursday for a nonleague matchup with Tesoro in the OC North/South Challenge.

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Whittier Christian, La Habra boys hoops pick up big tournament wins

Posted on 28 December 2013 by La Habra Journal

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

heralds_whittier_christian_boys_varsity_baseball_spring_11-12WHITTIER CHRISTIAN

Fueled by a fast start and plenty of outside shooting, the Whittier Christian boys’ basketball team earned a championship berth in the Leon Davis Christmas Classic after besting Riverside Prep of Oro Grande 47-40, Saturday night at Whittier Christian High.

Senior forward Jake Rivera put up the game’s first eight points and the Heralds (8-4) led by as many as 15 points in the second quarter. The Heralds hit seven 3-pointers.

“They are very athletic and quick, so we thought if put pressure on them and made them play faster than what they’re accustomed to, as crazy as that sounds, that would work in our favor,” said Sherwin Durham, Heralds head coach. “That’s what helped us to the big advantage in the first half.”

Rivera started the game with two 3-pointers and a layup to put the Heralds up 8-0 immediately. Christian Labadie and Shawn Stolt provided help with nine combined points as the Heralds led 17-9 after the first quarter.

Another long distance shot by Ryan Esslinger and a jumper by Rivera stretched the lead to 24-9, but back-to-back 3-pointers by the Silver Knights’ Cameron Woods and Vision Pluma late in the quarter reduced the lead to nine points at the half.

“We think it’s contagious, there can be a trickle-down effect,” Durham said of the multiple contributors in scoring. “It’s huge, we want to stretch the floor. We’re different, we want to play inside-out, but these guys love to shoot, so we play outside-in. We want to switch it, but if we can knock down some 3s, that’s going to stretch the defense and then we have a post game that can match that.”

Things slowed down for the Heralds from there as Rivera went cold from the field. Pluma hit another 3-pointer for Riverside Prep (8-2) and forward Chris Bailey added three baskets down low as the Silver Knights cut the lead to five points heading into the fourth quarter.

The Heralds maintained the lead thanks to long distance shots by Esslinger and Kaipo Villeza.

Rivera found his stride again in the fourth quarter and the Heralds controlled the boards in leading to the seven-point victory.

“We have athletes, guys that can jump and are physical down there,” Durham said. “We want to win points in the paint and the battle of the boards and if you can do that, usually you are on the winning side of things.”

Rivera led the Heralds with 21 points and Esslinger added 10 points, including a 3-for-4 night from 3-point range, to go with eight rebounds. Shawn Stolt added six points and picked up 10 rebounds.

Bailey led the Silver Knights with 11 points, while Elijah Woods and Pluma added nine and eight points respectively. Elijah Woods had a team-high eight rebounds.

The Heralds will move on to the championship game where they will play Troy, which beat Valley Christian 68-63 to earn its spot in the finals.

“They’re a good team, they’re solid,” Durham said of Troy. “When I saw them earlier in the week, I wasn’t sure if they were the team that would come out of that side, but they started to play better and better, it was good for us to see that. I think we’ll be up for the task, they’re sort of a carbon copy of what we do and they might be a little better at it, but the final score on Monday will let us know for sure.”

The game will take place at Whittier Christian High, Monday at 6 p.m.

highlander-logoLA HABRA

It didn’t take long for the La Habra boys’ basketball team to fix some problems that plagued the team in Friday night’s loss to Claremont in the Whittier Holiday Invitational.

Less than 24 hours after seeing their six-game win streak snapped, the Highlanders jumped out to an early lead, dominated the boards and forced a handful of turnovers in beating Glenn 81-49, Saturday afternoon at Whittier High.

Guard Zach Gray led the charge with 24 points while playing only the first three quarters. His 3-point shooting helped the Highlanders (8-3) score the first 10 points of the game.

“We shot the ball really well early on,” said Dave Ploog, Highlanders’ head coach. “When you get that going, it really helps. It spread the floor out, which opened us up inside. It’s good for Zach too because it helps his confidence, he’s one of our best shooters.”

Adam Cooley, who also didn’t play the fourth quarter, provided support with 14 points as La Habra scored more than 20 points in each of the first three quarters.

Michael Banks added eight points and led the team with 11 rebounds. As a team, the Highlanders outrebounded the Eagles 43-19.

“They were running zone, so we had two guys on the high post and low post,” Ploog said in regards to offensive rebounding. “They were able to crash in really well and that made a big difference because we always had one guy underneath their defense and that really helped over time.”

Gray scored 12 of his 24 points in the first quarter on four 3-pointers. He and Adam Cooley combined for La Habra’s 10-0 run to start the game.

In the second quarter, Justin Jaimez and Peter Hutchinson took over, scoring seven points each as the Highlanders enjoyed a comfortable 45-17 lead at the break.

Gray’s fifth 3-pointer pushed La Habra to its highest lead at 37 points in the third quarter.

Banks and Devin Melendez each had four points and four rebounds in the fourth quarter as the Highlanders cruised to victory.

“The fourth quarter gave us a chance to evaluate some of our bench players to see how we can use them in league if we need them to fill in for a few minutes,” Ploog said. “I saw some really good things in their defense and rebounding, so that’s good to know for the future.”

The 81 points scored by La Habra are a season high for the team and 17 points more than its previous season high of 64 in a tournament game against South Torrance.

Forward Alan Solorzano led Glenn (6-6) with 18 points while guard Sunny Bedi scored all 10 of his points in the second half.

The Highlanders wrap up the 4th Annual Whittier Holiday Classic with a 3 p.m. tilt against Warren, Monday at Whittier High.

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Highlanders six-game win streak snapped by Claremont

Posted on 27 December 2013 by La Habra Journal

Adam Cooley, shown against La Serna, led the Highlanders with 19 points in a 59-48 loss to Claremont in the Whittier Holiday Invitational, Friday night at Whittier High.

Adam Cooley, shown against La Serna, led the Highlanders with 19 points in a 59-48 loss to Claremont in the Whittier Holiday Invitational, Friday night at Whittier High.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

WHITTIER – The La Habra boys’ basketball team saw a six-game winning streak come to an end after a 59-48 loss to Claremont, Friday night at Whittier High in the 4th Annual Whittier Holiday Invitational.

The Highlanders struggled on the boards and had problems turning the ball over against Claremont’s aggressive defense. La Habra gave up 13 offensive rebounds, which led to a handful of second-chance points for the Wolfpack.

“We just got frustrated and didn’t deal with pressure well,” said Dave Ploog, Highlanders head coach. “We turned the ball over a lot and we kept talking about getting good rebounds and boxing out, but in the third quarter we weren’t able to do it. We weren’t going to crawl back in the game if we didn’t limit their offensive rebounds.”

On the offensive end, the Highlanders (8-3) struggled to finish near the basket and relied on 3-point shooting in the third quarter to decrease the deficit to one point.

However, Claremont (8-4) scored the final six points of the third quarter and pushed the lead to double digits early in the fourth quarter.

Adam Cooley led La Habra with 19 points, but struggled from the free throw line, making 6-of-11 shots from the stripe.

Zach Gray added nine points, all scored on 3-pointers, and Michael Banks scored eight points and led the team with nine rebounds, but went 4-of-15 from the field.

The Wolfpack jumped ahead early with a 3-pointer by forward Omar Mahmoud and baskets by Kyle Scalmanini and center Chris Edward before Ploog called an early timeout.

La Habra clawed back in behind nine forced turnovers. Cooley scored six points in the second quarter as the Highlanders outscored Claremont 12-6 and found themselves down by one point at the break.

Gray and Justin Jaimez combined for three 3-pointers to keep the deficit at 38-37, but Claremont’s Quincy Hales and Mahmoud combined for three baskets to end the quarter with a seven-point lead.

“We did a good job at making them miss the first shot, but then they would get the second one,” Ploog said. “That prevented us from getting back in the game, giving them those second chances.”

Mahmoud’s scoring and Edward’s rebounding proved to wear out the Highlanders in the second half. Mahmoud scored 12 of his team-high 19 points in the second half, while Edward recorded a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Of Edward’s rebounds, five were hauled in on the offensive end. Scalmanini added seven second-half points and finished with nine points total.

The Highlanders continue the Whittier Holiday Invitational against John Glenn High at Whittier High School, tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.

“Playing a team like this is good because we’ll see teams like this down the road, like maybe a Troy,” Ploog said. “It will help prepare us for some league opponents, playing that quick, trapping type of team.”

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Raiders exact a little revenge, repeat as NOCC champions

Posted on 21 December 2013 by La Habra Journal

Sonora's Adam Marlow works against Canyon's Anthony Ballestero in the first half of Sonora's 58-55 NOCC Championship win. Marlow scored 10 points and hit the eventual game-winner with just over 30 seconds remaining. Photos by Jay Seidel, La Habra Journal

Sonora’s Adam Marlow works against Canyon’s Anthony Ballestero in the first half of Sonora’s 58-55 NOCC Championship win. Marlow scored 10 points and hit the eventual game-winner with just over 30 seconds remaining. Photos by Jay Seidel, La Habra Journal

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

If there wasn’t already a major rivalry between the Sonora and Canyon boys’ basketball teams, it may have started after Saturday night’s tilt in the championship game of the North Orange County Championships.

Two weeks ago, Canyon edged the Raiders by two points to win the El Modena Canyon Kickoff Classic championship. Raiders’ head coach Mike Murphy has not been on the bench for Sonora since.

This time, the Raiders returned the favor, overcoming a 14-point third quarter deficit and surviving a wild finish to hand the Comanches their first loss of the season, 58-55 to claim their second consecutive NOCC Championship.

“We just never give up, we lost our coach a couple weeks ago and we’ve just really pulled together as a team,” said Adam Marlow, Sonora senior guard. “I knew we had it in us, it was just a matter of playing hard and playing until the final buzzer.”

Ben Rico led the Raiders (9-2) with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Adam Marlow and center Steven Murphy added 10 points each. Sonora outscored the Comanches 38-25 in the second half.

During a back-and-forth final quarter, Marlow hit a tough runner, which rattled in to give Sonora the lead for good at 57-55 with 36 seconds remaining.

Sonora's Josh Rodriguez hits a layup and is fouled by Canyon's Davante Parker after forcing a turnover in Sonora's 58-55 win, Saturday night. Rodriguez' play was limited due to foul trouble.

Sonora’s Josh Rodriguez hits a layup and is fouled by Canyon’s Davante Parker after forcing a turnover in Sonora’s 58-55 win, Saturday night. Rodriguez’ play was limited due to foul trouble.

The senior then forced a bad shot by Canyon’s Anthony Ballestero on the other end, which forced the Comanches to foul Rico after he grabbed the rebound.

But things didn’t look good for Sonora early on as Canyon (9-1) hauled in 15 offensive rebounds in the first half, leading to a 30-20 score at the break.

Canyon took it’s biggest lead at 38-24 when it forced a turnover, which led to an easy transition layup by Nick Anderson, who was limited to four points after torching the Raiders for 27 points two weeks ago.

“We were just playing really tentative, like we were scared,” said Jason Stein, Sonora interim co-coach. “They just out-hustled us, they’re obviously a really good team. Every 50-50 ball, they got it. They were just crashing the boards harder and we addressed that at halftime, we gave up 15 offensive rebounds in the first half, which is ridiculous.”

On top of the rebounding issues, Josh Rodriguez was in foul trouble and played a limited role, scoring just seven points.

But his exit midway through the third quarter only motivated his teammates further, as Sonora responded with a 16-1 run to take a 40-39 lead with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

The lead was Sonora’s first since Rico opened the game with a 3-pointer.

The Raiders’ full-court press forced turnovers, while on the other end, they were patient and got the ball inside to Murphy, who scored eight of his 10 points in the third quarter.

“Josh went out with foul trouble and it’s just the nature of this team to pull together,” Marlow said. “We were just tired of losing to Canyon, it was good to finally beat them.”

Sonora kept a slight edge thanks to three-point shooting in the fourth quarter. Rico and guard Christian Rhodes both hit long distance shots to keep Sonora on top.

“I think our crowd is bringing us a lot of energy, the student support is great and I don’t think we’ve ever had a crowd like this for a December game,” Stein said. “And I don’t know how else to say it, but we have some ballers. They have a lot of heart.”

Sonora's Ben Rico posts up on Canyon's Nick Anderson during the first half, Saturday night. Rico led all scorers with 18 points.

Sonora’s Ben Rico posts up on Canyon’s Nick Anderson during the first half, Saturday night. Rico led all scorers with 18 points.

But after every big shot Sonora made, Canyon responded immediately by running the floor. Kaleb Phillips hit a 3-pointer and Ballestero followed with a jumper, keeping the pressure on the host Raiders.

Ballestero tied the game at 55-55 with a basket and free throw, but Phillips missed a crucial free throw attempt that would have given Canyon the lead.

“It feels amazing,” Marlow said of the tournament championship. “We were finally able to beat [Canyon] and I think it will just take off from here. We’re on a roll and we’re hoping to continue that.”

Jordan Rohan led the Comanches with 13 points, while Phillips added 11. Ballestero and Davante Parker added 10 points each. Nick Anderson, one of Canyon’s top scorers, was held to just four points, but grabbed 12 rebounds.

All 10 points by Parker came in the second quarter.

All-tournament selections included Canyon’s Anderson and Ballestero and Sonora’s Rico and Marlow. Josh Rodriguez, who scored 41 points in a game earlier this week against Riverside King, was selected as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

“This feels great, but it’s all building on what Mike Murphy has done, he trained us as coaches, he’s training all the players,” Stein said. “He’s led everyone since the spring and we’re just going off what he’s taught us and what he’s taught the players. When we looked at the field for this tournament, it was unbelievable, we thought it would be good to go 3-2, but to win it again and beat Canyon, the No. 3 team in the county, it’s just great.”

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Raiders continue success against the Trinity League

Posted on 19 December 2013 by La Habra Journal

Josh Rodriguez scored 16 points against Orange Lutheran, but struggled from the field, hitting just 5-of-20 field goals, Thursday night at Sonora High.

Josh Rodriguez scored 16 points against Orange Lutheran, but struggled from the field, hitting just 5-of-20 field goals, Thursday night at Sonora High.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

The Sonora boys’ basketball team’s quick start turned out to make the difference in a 57-52 win over Orange Lutheran at home, Thursday night in the championship bracket of the North Orange County Championships.

In defeating a third Trinity League contender, the Raiders led by as many as 14 in the second quarter and held on throughout the second half as the Lancers made a push in each of the third and fourth quarters.

“We know that the Trinity League is the toughest in Southern California, so this is really big for us,” said Jason Stein, Sonora interim co-head coach. “Especially being little Sonora from North Orange County, it’s nice to knock off the big boys. We know they still have Mater Dei, JSerra and St. John Bosco who are powerhouses, but it’s still fun.”

Guard Josh Rodriguez pushed through a rough shooting night to score 16 points and Ben Rico matched with 16 points of his own as the duo led the Raiders.

Adam Marlow not only played tough defense on Lancers’ leading scorer CJ Jankins, but the senior guard came up with some big shots when Sonora needed them most. He also made 5-of-8 free throws down the stretch to help seal the win.

“Adam has been unbelievable, he’s the glue of our team,” Stein said. “He gives up some of his offensive game to guard our opponent’s best perimeter players, he’s just so selfless, I’m really proud of him.”

Jankins led Orange Lutheran with 16 points, while forward Anthony Lefeau added 12 points in defeat.

The Lancers had a noticeable size advantage and won the rebound battle, however, second-chance points were hard to come by for Orange Lutheran.

“I thought we did a great job on the boards even though we were really outsized,” Stein said.

The key for the Raiders was in how they started the game. An early 9-1 run gave the Raiders a comfortable lead.

Rodriguez scored nine of his 16 points in the first quarter as Sonora led 18-8.

“We started off really well, but they picked up their defensive intensity over the last three quarters,” Stein said. “I thought we were just really flat.”

Baskets by Rico and Marlow gave Sonora its biggest lead at 22-8, but the Lancers would consistently reduce the deficit from there.

Lefeau hit a pair of 3-pointers to give the Lancers some momentum, despite Sonora’s 30-24 lead at the half.

After a low-scoring third quarter, Rico started the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer to give the Raiders a seven-point lead.

However, midway through the quarter, Jankins pulled the Lancers to a two-point deficit with a pair of 3-pointers.

Marlow responded with a runner that bounced off the backboard and in. The senior was fouled on the play, but missed the ensuing free throw.

The two-point deficit would be the closest Orange Lutheran came in a game that Sonora led throughout. In the Lancers’ final two possessions, they couldn’t convert on second-chance opportunities.

“In the fourth quarter, we really stepped it up big time and played a little zone,” Stein said. “I think that threw them off balance, but in the end, our man defense came through.”

The Raiders will play La Mirada at home, tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m.

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