Tag Archive | "CIF-SS"

Highlanders battle, check Lions off the list

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Highlanders battle, check Lions off the list

Posted on 12 November 2016 by La Habra Journal

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

Photo by Paul Luna

Photo by Paul Luna — La Habra’s Madison Wheeler pushes through a Lions defender as the Highlanders beat Oaks Christian in CIF playoffs Friday night on the road. Wheeler had 233 yards on 37 carries.

The La Habra football team entered the opening round of CIF in an unfamiliar position, as an underdog on the road, but that didn’t stop the Highlanders from doing what they have done for 18 years under Frank Mazzotta, win CIF playoff games.

 

The Highlanders saved their best showing of the season for when in counted, upsetting No. 3 Oaks Christian 35-28 at Westlake Village Friday night.

In a game that had been blow-for-blow from the onset La Habra found itself on the road, down a score with under four minutes to go.

Trailing 28-21 and facing a 4th-and-7, quarterback Zach Fogel scrambled out of the pocket and made an Aaron Rogers-like jump throw across his body, connecting with Derrick Corso who cut all the way back across the field for a 17-yard score to tie the game with 3:18 to play.

Alex Alcocer continued turning the tide in La Habra’s favor when he picked off Matt Corral on the following possession, setting up the game winning score.

Photo by Paul Luna

Photo by Paul Luna — La Habra Quarterback Zach Fogel looks for an open receiver. The Highlanders beat Oaks Christian on the road Friday in the first round of CIF playoffs.

Fogel took the first snap, read the triple-option perfectly and found Prince Ross wide open in the back of the end zone from 21 yards out to give La Habra the lead with a couple minutes left.

Despite the one score lead, there was still plenty of time left for a Corral led passing attack that had already burned the Highlanders on big plays all game long.

Enter Mr. Corso. Already owning a pair of touchdown catches on offense, the senior shifted his playmaking skills to the defensive side for his third act. On the Lions ensuing drive, Corso picked off Corral at midfield with :45 left to seal the hardfought victory for the Highlanders some 67 miles away from home.

The Highlanders picked off the Corral three times Friday night, which is newsworthy considering the USC commit had only thrown three all season coming into the game. Isaac Soto Morales’ interception just before halftime set up the Highlanders third score.

Madison Wheeler carried the Highlander offense on his back to the tune of 160 yards and a touchdown in the first half. The Lions knew Wheeler was going to get the ball, but just couldn’t stop the two-way workhorse.

Photo by Paul Launa

Photo by Paul Launa — Senior Receiver Prince Ross pulls down a Zach Fogel pass in the end zone for the Highlanders’ go-ahead score against Oaks Christian Friday in Westlake Village.

Wheeler’s dominance running the ball early allowed Fogel to pick the Lions apart in critical situations the rest of the way. He finished with a whopping 233 yards on 37 carries.

Fogel finished with four touchdowns on the night (3 pass, 1 rush), and seemed to make the right decisions all night long.

For the past three weeks, Mazzotta has talked about his quarterback’s steady improvement, pointing out Fogel’s 4.8 GPA and toughness.

Even when the junior quarterback made a mistake, it helped the Highlanders. Fogel’s lone interception came on a 4th-and-long play with nobody open downfield, so it basically amounted to a 20-yard punt instead of a sack or incomplete pass.

Prince Ross caught the go-ahead touchdown pass and had 136 total yards.

La Habra (7-4) will travel about the same distance, but in the opposite direction to play Redlands East Valley (9-2), next Friday at 7:30 p.m. Redlands is coming off a 41-30 opening round win over Great Oak.

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Heralds go out swinging, fall in close match to Westminster in first round

Posted on 13 May 2014 by La Habra Journal

Whittier Christian's Branden Osborn (shown against Heritage Christian) gave the Heralds a lift with his play in the third and fourth games, but the Heralds saw their season end after a 3-2 loss in the first round of the Division 3 playoffs, Thursday night at Westminster High.

Whittier Christian’s Branden Osborn (shown against Heritage Christian) gave the Heralds a lift with his play in the third and fourth games, but the Heralds saw their season end after a 3-2 loss in the first round of the Division 3 playoffs, Thursday night at Westminster High.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

The Whittier Christian volleyball team had bounced back from a 2-0 deficit and seemingly had all the momentum heading into a deciding Game 5 against Westminster in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 3 playoffs.

Sparked by middle blocker Branden Osborn, the Heralds were coming off their most decisive game win, tying up the match by taking the fourth game 25-10.

However, Westminster went back to its roots, using floor coverage followed by its speed to cause fits for the Heralds’ front line as outside hitter Minh Nguyen led the host Lions to a 15-7 win in Game 5 to down the Heralds, 3-2 (25-18, 25-23, 17-25, 10-25, 15-7), at Westminster High.

“When we came in, we knew that [Nguyen] was their go-to guy, so we tried to set up the block, pinching over a little bit on that left side, but we couldn’t close it early,” said Chris Duran, Whittier Christian head coach. “I think in that fifth game, we just tightened up a little bit. I don’t know if that was the anticipation or urgency of what that game meant, but we just couldn’t pull it out. We gave some points away and when you do that, it’s always tough to win. They’re a great passing team and a great defensive team, which took us out of rhythm.”

Going into the matchup, the Heralds had a clear-cut size advantage on paper, but the Lions (15-5-1) countered with their speed and coverage as well as the strength of Nguyen, who was constantly on the attack in the first two games.

Despite the Heralds’ front line of 6-foot-8 Stephen Nolin, 6-foot-6 Jimmy West and 6-foot-5 Shawn Stolt, the 5-foot-8 Nguyen was the Lions’ go to attacker and he rifled plenty of shots through the block.

“Having the offensive speed was a good way of countering [their front line],” said Kirk Arradaza, Westminster head coach. “Yeah, they had the height, yeah they had power, but we wanted to match it with speed and second opportunities.”

While the Heralds had no answer for Nguyen early, the team adjusted well in the third and fourth games, changing up the middle blockers and putting in Osborn, who was more than ready for the task.

A major factor in the fourth game, Osborn sparked the Heralds with four kills and two blocks for points as Whittier Christian kept its foot on the gas pedal and sped to a Game 4 win.

“We became more aware of the things we needed to do and we limited our mistakes, we played really well,” Duran said. “We made the adjustment to put in Branden in Game 3 and he’s a playmaker. He’s always ready to go, he’s so versatile and athletic that we have options with him. He capitalized and maximized his potential and he made it happen for us. It helped change the momentum.”

The third game was all about offensive flow as setter Austin Tafoya connected with his hitters and picked up 13 assists to go along with one block for a point. Stolt picked up four kills in the set and the Heralds tallied four total points on the block.

Feeling in the moment, the Heralds easily carried that momentum into the fourth game.

However, after a long conversation, Westminster found a way to return to its early form, freeing up Nguyen for more big hits to help the Lions maintain an early lead.

“Throughout the season, emotion and motivation have been a key and something we want to control throughout the match,” Arradaza said. “In the third and fourth sets, their faces were a little down, so in the fifth set, we knew we needed to get our emotion up and use it in a positive way and get the game going. That’s pretty much what kicked it for us.”

Later in the set, a pair of crucial hitting errors by Nolin and a block that fell out of bounds spelled the end of what was a great season for the Heralds in Duran’s second year at the helm.

Whittier Christian finishes the year with a 19-9 overall record and will see five seniors graduate, all of them starters.

“It was a great season, we had a great group of guys, so many great personalities and it’s such a mixed breed,” Duran said. “They’ve been awesome. This being my second year, we wanted to put Whittier Chrsitian volleyball back on the map and we’ve made playoffs these last two years. We’re excited for the future, it’s tough to see the guys work so hard and for us to be right there, but we dug ourselves a hole early. We fought, but the other team came out on top.”

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Raiders run cold late, fall in Division 2A Championship game

Posted on 08 March 2014 by La Habra Journal

Sonora's Adam Marlow works with the ball in the backcourt against Calabasas guard Larry Bush during the second half of Sonora's  66-47 loss to Calabasas at Honda Center, Saturday afternoon.

Sonora’s Adam Marlow works with the ball in the backcourt against Calabasas guard Larry Bush during the second half of Sonora’s 66-47 loss to Calabasas at Honda Center, Saturday afternoon. Photos by Alex Avina, La Habra Journal

Scroll down to view more photos from this game.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

ANAHEIM – Undersized in comparison to its opponent, the Sonora boys’ basketball team fought hard, but went cold from the floor late in falling to Calabasas 66-47 in the CIF-SS Division 2A Championship game, Saturday afternoon at Honda Center.

The Raiders hung tough through three quarters and shrunk their deficit to 44-41 early in the fourth quarter, but missed their next 14 shots and the Coyotes pulled away using their size inside on the other end.

“Against their size, it was really hard to get good shots,” said Ben Rico, who scored 12 points. “They played tough defense, it was definitely a factor today.”

Calabasas center Austin Smith scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while guard Conner Longmire scored 17 points and made two layups in the fourth quarter to counteract Sonora’s early-quarter comeback attempt.

The Coyotes (27-5) closed out the game with free throws, denying Sonora its first title in 30 years.

“We hadn’t seen them live, they’re more athletic than I thought,” Murphy said. “They’re extremely physical, really well coached, they’re probably the toughest team we faced this year.”

After falling behind early, Sonora (28-4) used the second and third quarters to march back.

In the third quarter, Josh Rodriguez led the Raiders and scored their first seven points of the quarter.

However, each time Sonora pulled close, Calabasas broke loose again. Smith scored seven points in the third quarter and Larry Bush added six of his 12 points as the Coyotes took a 42-35 lead into the fourth quarter. Bush also contributed with seven rebounds.

Sonora's Steven Murphy defends against Calabasas guard Conner Longmire during the second half of Sonora's 66-47 loss against Calabasas, Saturday afternoon at Honda Center.

Sonora’s Steven Murphy defends against Calabasas guard Conner Longmire during the second half of Sonora’s 66-47 loss against Calabasas, Saturday afternoon at Honda Center.

Rico began the fourth quarter with a pair of tough jump shots and a pair of free throws to pull Sonora within three points, but that was the closest Sonora would get.

“We just couldn’t score,” Murphy said of the drought. “When you can’t score, you try to extend the defense and create some baskets with our defense. Their guards are really good and they made us foul them at the end.”

In the first quarter, the combination of size and quickness helped Calabasas take an early lead.

While Justin Bessard battled inside for six points, Longmire hit a 3-pointer and completed another three-point play as the Coyotes led 20-12 after the first quarter.

“I thought our team did a tremendous job in this game,” said Jon Palarz, Calabasas head coach. “Our whole team did great in preparation and we played really well on defense, I couldn’t ask for anything more from our guys. Sonora’s a fantastic team and I feel very fortunate to [come away with the win].”

The Raiders quickly erased most of that deficit to start the second quarter, using Steven Murphy for tough baskets inside, the junior scored twice and was fouled on both plays, but made only one of his two free throws.

Halfway through the second quarter, a basket by Rodriguez shrunk the deficit to 24-22. Both defenses took over, altering shots as both teams struggled from the floor.

“I thought we were hurting them early with our drive-and-kick offense, we got some good looks,” Murphy said. “I thought Josh and Adam [Marlow] were able to get to the basket, but we couldn’t finish. We had a tough time finishing.”

A late basket by center Austin Smith gave Calabasas a 26-22 lead at halftime.

Rodriguez led Sonora with 14 points and five assists, while Rico added 12 points and 10 rebounds, but the Raiders shot 16-of-56 from the floor and 4-of-22 on 3-pointers.

Steven Murphy finished with seven points, while Marlow added five points.

Calabasas earned its second title in the last three years. The Coyotes won the CIF-SS 3AA Championship in 2012.

Despite the loss, the Raiders still qualified for the Division 2 South Regional playoffs with the No. 8 seed. Sonora will host Monache High of Porterville, Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at Sonora High.

“We’re just ecstatic about getting a chance to play in State, we’ve never been to the State playoffs,” Murphy said. “We definitely didn’t want to end after this game, so we’ll see where we’re at in the bracket tomorrow and we’ll practice on Monday.”

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Sonora earns CIF Championship berth after fighting off scrappy Oak Hills

Posted on 04 March 2014 by La Habra Journal

Josh Rodriguez led the Raiders early with 11 first-half points and Sonora earned a berth into the CIF-SS Division 2A Championship game by defeating Oak Hills 57-46 at home, Tuesday night.

Josh Rodriguez led the Raiders early with 11 first-half points and Sonora earned a berth into the CIF-SS Division 2A Championship game by defeating Oak Hills 57-46 at home, Tuesday night.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

In six attempts in his first 28 years as a high school boys’ basketball head coach, Sonora’s Mike Murphy came up short in semifinal games, five of which were while coaching the Raiders.

Against a scrappy Oak Hills team, the Sonora boys’ basketball team gave its head coach his first opportunity at coaching a CIF Championship game by running away in the fourth quarter to a 57-46 victory, Tuesday night at home.

The win gives Murphy his first shot at a CIF title with Sonora in his 24-year tenure.

“There’s not a better group of guys I’d rather be with and Murphy deserves this more than anyone,” said Ben Rico, who led the team in scoring. “We did this for him, it’s all for him.”

From the midway point of the first quarter on, the Raiders never trailed, though the Bulldogs pulled within a basket on multiple occasions thanks to their work on the offensive rebounds.

Each time Oak Hills closed the gap, Sonora found a run with the shooting touch of both Ben Rico and Josh Rodriguez, who led the team with 18 and 17 points, respectively.

“We trusted in each other, we had to keep moving the ball and take time off the shot clock,” Rico said. “We had a couple possessions where we were a little selfish, but once we started finding each other, they couldn’t stop us and that kept us ahead.”

It wasn’t until the fourth quarter, after Rico hit a 3-pointer to put Sonora up 49-39 with 3:04 remaining in the game, that Sonora seemed to have the edge.

Rico scored 11 points in the second half, while Rodriguez helped the team early, with 11 first-half points.

Rico also led the team with eight rebounds and five steals.

“It’s been a year of firsts for us this year,” Murphy said. “We’ve got two guys in Rico and Rodriguez and tonight they showed why they’re special. We told Ben that he’s a beautiful player, he looks great out there, but he’s got to do the dirty stuff tonight, he’s got to rebound and defend and he did that tonight. We don’t win this game without Rico.”

Defensively, the Raiders caused problems inside and out. Junior center Steven Murphy knocked away six shots, while Rico used his reach to cut off passing lanes and force turnovers, which led to four fastbreak layups by either Rodriguez or Adam Marlow.

However, if Oak Hills put up a shot, the Bulldogs found a way to track down offensive rebounds for put-backs or trips to the free throw line to keep it close.

“We had to put bodies in on the rebound and they were killing us with that a bit in the first half,” Marlow said. “But we knew we had to battle back and we just find a way to overcome it, it’s been that way all season.”

Oak Hills (25-5) started well, using that aggressive style to push its way to an early 6-2 lead.

However, after a technical delay, the Raiders stormed back and ended the quarter on a 13-0 run to take a 19-10 lead with Rodriguez hitting a layup before the buzzer.

The Bulldogs slowed down Sonora’s offense in the second quarter, cutting the Raiders’ lead to 27-22 at halftime.

“We knew their guards are really good and we figured we couldn’t stop all of them, but we’d try and stop everyone else,” said Shaun Mora, Oak Hills head coach. “I thought we did a pretty good job of that through three quarters. They would get a run and we’d come back, but we got our heads down a little bit and they stayed even keel and showed that maturity and that’s what won them the game.”

Oak Hills reduced the deficit to three points twice in the third quarter, but Sonora responded with fastbreak points by Rodriguez and two jumpers by Rico, who created space on both attempts near the free-throw line.

Nick Scott, who led the Bulldogs with 12 points, scored eight points in the second half and helped Oak Hills fight back again in the fourth quarter.

But for the second consecutive game, Sonora (28-3) closed out strong and went to Steven Murphy for two baskets to give the Raiders initial separation.

Rico’s 3-pointer put the pressure on and Sonora sealed it with its defense.

“I told our guys that we didn’t want to get in a fight with them because we’d lose,” Mike Murphy said. “They were really physical, they rebounded well. We hadn’t won when we’re beaten on the boards and they probably had a few more than we did, but rebounding, that was their whole thing.”

For Oak Hills, the three wins in the playoffs were the first for the program in its brief history. The Bulldogs were undefeated Mojave River League champions.

“For us to make the playoffs was amazing and to win three games is just icing on the cake, I’m really proud of them,” Mora said. “We wanted to try and prove that we’re not just High Desert basketball, we didn’t want that label. We wanted to show that we could come down and compete with teams. We just want to be known as Oak Hills basketball and I think we did that this year.”

For the Raiders, a matchup with Calabasas awaits in the CIF-SS Division 2A Championship game, which will take place at the Honda Center, Saturday at noon.

“Nothing’s really phased us so far,” Marlow said. “This is a dream come true and I think we’re going to be ready, we’re not going to back down, whatever happens.”

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Raiders win in comeback fashion against Arlington in quarterfinals

Posted on 28 February 2014 by La Habra Journal

Ben Rico hit a clutch 3-pointer to give the Raiders a 49-44 lead with 19.1 seconds remaining, leading to a 49-46 road win over Arlington in the CIF-SS Division 2A quarterfinals, Friday night.

Ben Rico hit a clutch 3-pointer to give the Raiders a 49-44 lead with 19.1 seconds remaining, leading to a 49-46 road win over Arlington in the CIF-SS Division 2A quarterfinals, Friday night.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

RIVERSIDE – Traveling for the second time in four days, the Sonora boys’ basketball team persevered in a tough environment, leading to a narrow 49-46 victory against Arlington in the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS Division 2A playoffs, Friday night at Arlington High.

After scoring the game’s first bucket, the Raiders found themselves trailing the Lions throughout the contest until a 3-pointer by Adam Marlow gave Sonora the lead back at 42-40 with 5:12 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The lead would remain slim until junior Ben Rico hit a crucial 3-pointer from the corner to give Sonora a 49-44 lead with 19.1 seconds remaining.

“It was a big shot, Josh [Rodriguez] found me in the corner, I’ve been cold the past couple games, but I wasn’t missing that one,” Rico said. “We knew [long road games] could be the case coming into the playoffs, we don’t let the drives faze us, we just come out ready to play our game. Today we came out a little flat, but we worked hard and got the win.”

Both teams exploited their opponents’ defenses. Early on, center Steven Murphy’s movement down low led to easy layups and he scored six points in the first quarter.

Arlington countered with sophomore guard Kayn Calhoun, who used his quickness to gain separation for a pair of 3-pointers and a driving layup.

However, the Lions had to alter their gameplan when Calhoun went down with a right leg injury late in the first quarter.

“It changed our gameplan quite a bit,” said Arlington Head Coach John Seydel of the injury. “The nice thing about Kayn is that he has nice speed with the ball to penetrate, but if he backs off, he can hit 3s, but that’s the game, things happen, it definitely changed the gameplan. I give [Sonora] all the credit for the comeback, I thought we played pretty well too.”

Still, Arlington fed off the home crowd and kept itself two steps ahead of the Raiders in a low-scoring second quarter. The Lions led 26-21 at halftime behind Kenshael Airrington’s 13 first-half points.

Sonora came out ready to play in the third quarter, starting with a rebound putback by Rico, which led to a three-point play.

“Tonight, I was trying to be really calm [at halftime] because it seemed like they were frazzled,” Mike Murphy said. “I thought we came out and did a good job in the second half, but I liked our sets tonight, we kept getting layups early and that kept us in the game in the first half.”

However, Seydel would use Airrington to shield Murphy away from the ball-handler, forcing Sonora to make a choice to double -team him, or leave him in a favorable position in the post. Ultimately, it led to uncontested 3-pointers, of which Arlington made four in the quarter.

However, Sonora countered by driving in and finding Murphy who fought for five points in the quarter. The Raiders also hit clutch shots, including 3-pointers by Josh Rodriguez and Rico to tie up the ballgame at 37-37.

But the Lions shielded Murphy one more time, leading to a buzzer-beating shot by Brandon Jackson to take a 40-37 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

“They’re very solid and have good quickness and we don’t have much size,” Seydel said. “Because of that, we try to make our opponents’ big men move, but I thought he did a pretty good job tonight. We try to make their bigs defend our pick-and-roll and it worked pretty well tonight.”

But as the Raiders have done before in tough environments, they pulled through late. Rhodes started the fourth quarter with a jump shot, followed by Marlow’s 3-pointer as Sonora regained the lead.

Josh Rodriguez followed with a jumper and Murphy put in a layup, but Airrington and Robert Garcia drove in for layups to decrease the deficit to two points, leading to an Arlington timeout.

After the break, Rodriguez found Rico in the corner, who buried the 3-pointer and all but sealed the come-from-behind victory for the Raiders.

“This was a tough team, a lot like a Sunny Hills or a Canyon,” Mike Murphy said. “Our schedule played a big part in this, we played those guys four times and that really prepared us for tonight. We’ve had a lot of ugly wins this year and as long as we have one more point in the end, we’re all right.”

Murphy and Rico led the Raiders with 13 points each, while Rodriguez added 12 points and Marlow led with eight rebounds.

Airrington led the Lions with 15 points, 13 of which came in the first half. Calhoun, who re-entered the game toward the end of the second quarter, scored eight of his 13 points in the first quarter.

Arlington finishes its season with a 19-10 record and has three starters returning next season.

“We had 10 losses, but when I look at those, I don’t see any bad losses, they were all against quality teams,” Seydel said. “That’s a credit to our kids for showing up and working together.”

Sonora (27-3) will host a semifinal game for the first time in Mike Murphy’s career at the school. The Raiders, who haven’t lost at home in two years, will face off against Oak Hills of Hesperia, Tuesday night at 7 p.m.

“We haven’t lost their in two years, so I think we’re looking good,” Rico said. “We’re really tough to beat at home, so it should be a fun game.”

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Sonora goes the distance, gets past Righetti in second round

Posted on 26 February 2014 by La Habra Journal

Ben Rico (pictured against Troy) scored 20 points and secured 11 rebounds in the Raiders' 67-48 road victory at Righetti in the second round of the CIF-SS Division 2A playoffs, Tuesday night.

Ben Rico (pictured against Troy) scored 20 points and secured 11 rebounds in the Raiders’ 67-48 road victory at Righetti in the second round of the CIF-SS Division 2A playoffs, Tuesday night.

SANTA MARIA – Not even a 180-mile one way trip could slow down the top-seeded Sonora boys’ basketball team in a 67-48 victory over Righetti in the second round of the CIF-SS Division 2A playoffs.

Despite being on the road for over three hours before the game, the Raiders sprinted out to an early lead and held it throughout to move on to the quarterfinal round, which surpasses the team’s finish from a season ago.

Josh Rodriguez led the Raiders with 22 points and seven assists, while Ben Rico posted a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Adam Marlow also scored in double digits with 13 points and Christian Rhodes supplied support with five assists and five steals.

Sonora (26-3) started strong, scoring 21 points in the first quarter, which led to a 32-24 halftime lead. In the third quarter, the Raiders gained separation by outscoring the Warriors 16-7.

Righetti (16-11) was led by junior forward Cameron Walker’s 19 points.

The Raiders will play a second consecutive road contest on Friday when they battle Arlington of Riverside in the quarterinals, Friday at 7 p.m.

The Lions defeated Redlands East Valley in the second round, 71-70.

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Highlanders struggle to keep pace with Canyon, fall in second round

Posted on 25 February 2014 by La Habra Journal

Adam Cooley (pictured) and Zach Gray led the Highlanders with 15 points each, but La Habra lost to Canyon of Canyon Country 67-50, ending its season at 16-12.

Adam Cooley (pictured) and Zach Gray led the Highlanders with 15 points each, but La Habra lost to Canyon of Canyon Country 67-50, ending its season at 16-12.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

SANTA CLARITA – After picking up its upset win in the first round, the La Habra boys’ basketball team couldn’t match a quick tempo by Canyon of Canyon Country in a 67-50 loss in the second round of the CIF-SS Division 2AA playoffs, Tuesday night at Canyon High.

The Highlanders fell into a double-digit deficit twice in the first half, but responded well both times and went into halftime down by six points.

However, in the third quarter, Canyon’s quick zone defense caused problems for the Highlanders, who rushed shots and missed second chance opportunities down low.

“They do an extended zone, so we were really trying to get the ball down low to Adam [Cooley], but it was hard,” said Dave Ploog, La Habra head coach. “Their pressure was forcing us to take bad shots and we really couldn’t get into rhythm. I thought we had some really good looks on 3-pointers, but against a team like this you have to hit your shots and we shot a really low 3-point percentage tonight.”

Canyon switched between full-court press and half court zone defensive schemes. During full-court presses, La Habra struggled to find breathing room in the backcourt.

The Cowboys turned some of those turnovers into fastbreak points and Canyon did most of its damage by slashing through defenders to get to the basket and hitting timely 3-pointers.

“I think we were just surprised by their tempo, because we didn’t see a lot of teams that play this way,” Ploog said. “We just weren’t able to get into a groove.”

Canyon guard Mark Cabrera scored 12 of his 16 points by consistently driving through the interior of La Habra’s defense.

Cabrera was only outdone by guard Ben Taufahema, who scored nine of his 18 points in the fourth quarter as the Cowboys ran away into the quarterfinals.

“In the second half, [their pace] had a major impact because we were also in foul trouble,” Ploog said. “We weren’t really getting into rhythm, we weren’t getting any good looks. In the fourth quarter, we were scoring, but they kept getting them back.”

The Highlanders tried to slow down and stick to their offensive gameplan, but found themselves getting forced into Canyon’s tempo by an aggressive Cowboys’ zone defense.

If La Habra broke through the defense for a score, Canyon would try to run the floor, forcing La Habra to be aware and quick in transition, which wasn’t always easy.

However, in the first half, La Habra was resilient and battled back. In the second quarter, the Highlanders adjusted defensively to hold Canyon to 12 points..

After falling behind 16-4 midway in the first quarter, Zach Gray hit a jumper and a 3-pointer to lead a 10-2 run by La Habra to end the opening frame.

The Highlanders again fell behind by double digits at 26-16 in the second quarter, but the team responded with aggressive offensive play, which may not have resulted in baskets from the floor, but it did lead to six made free throws.

But after a half of trying to keep pace, the Highlanders struggled to find good shots against Canyon’s aggressive zone, scoring just five points in the third quarter.

Canyon (23-6) ran away, scoring 27 points in the fourth quarter. La Habra’s season ends at 16-12.

Gray and Adam Cooley led the Highlanders with 15 points each, while David Desatoff and Michael Banks added seven points.

Cooley led the team with eight rebounds, while Desatoff came away with seven rebounds.

“Our seniors were able to bond, knowing that this was their last chance,” Ploog said. “I thought we came together well at the end of the season. As a coach, it’s great to have kids that like to work hard and like to play together and that’s what I’ll take away from this season. Not the wins and losses, but the fact that this team was always ready to work hard and play together.”

The Highlanders will lose 10 seniors to graduation, which means Ploog and his staff may have to alter their offensive gameplan moving forward for next year.

One thing that will remain constant will be the emphasis on defense, which showed progress this year in comparison to his debut season as head coach last year.

“We just need to keep focusing on our keys and work on becoming more of an offensive team,” Ploog said. “We want to work on some more sets. This year, we were able to spread the floor and let our athletes work, but we may need to change that moving forward. We always work hard and take pride in our defense, but we have a lot of guards coming up, so we may need to play a faster game.

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Lady Highlanders can’t hold off second-half rally by Yucaipa

Posted on 22 February 2014 by La Habra Journal

Megan Chancellor scored 15 points in La Habra's first round loss to Yucaipa, Saturday night at home.

Megan Chancellor scored 15 points in La Habra’s first round loss to Yucaipa, Saturday night at home.

by Sarah Fenton
La Habra Journal

After a hard fought game, the La Habra High School girls’ basketball team lost to Yucaipa, 58-55, in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 2AA playoffs , at home on Saturday.

“We studied them a lot,” said Jim Bohn, La Habra head coach. “We saw some video on them and were able to watch their game and their scheme that they have.”

The Highlanders (15-11) had the lead until the end of the fourth quarter when the Thunderbirds scored six consecutive points to put them in the lead, 54-49.

“I thought we played them very well in the first half,” Bohn said. “We held their shooters in check and moved the ball well as a team. In the second half we had some bad rotations and 12 free throws that we missed that made a difference too.”

La Habra started strong in the first quarter, holding Yucaipa (12-11) to only 2 points.

Megan Chancellor scored the first points of the game with a drive through defenders for a layup, assisted by Ashleigh Bessler. La Habra led, 9-2, going into the second quarter.

The Highlanders scored quickly in the beginning of the second quarter with a baseline jump shot by Emma Zener.

The Thunderbirds responded by scoring four points, but Zener fired back with another jump shot assisted by Bessler.

The Highlanders led, 25-14, going into halftime.

“I told them you have to come out and own the first three minutes of that game and we didn’t do that,” Bohn said. “When we don’t do that, that’s usually what happens. We had a tight game, we didn’t rotate, their guards got free, we didn’t step up in the lane when we should have and that hurt us. They’re a good team and they deserved to win tonight.”

Yucaipa came back strong on offense in the second half and scored four consecutive points at the beginning of the third quarter.

Bessler responded with two points off an offensive rebound and Amanda Cuervo followed with a jump shot.

The Thunderbirds came back in the middle of the quarter with a 10-0 run, which put them in the lead, 31-29.

La Habra pushed the ball on offense and scored two 3-pointers, by Zener and Chancellor, and a jump shot by Lizette Martinez, with less than a minute left in the quarter.

“I think the turnovers, the free throws, and the rotations hurt us,” Bohn said. “In the third quarter we didn’t have our hands up and were just standing like statues and they beat us in the backdoor. We made some adjustments and it’s unfortunate that players didn’t step up during that time.”

La Habra led, 42-40, going into the final quarter.

Both teams fought hard in the final quarter, but Yucaipa clinched the win by making a free throw with a few seconds left in the game.

Zener led the team in scoring with five 3-pointers and a total of 20 points and Chancellor followed with 15 points.

“They fought and it’s a great experience for the young ones,” Bohn said. “It’s unfortunate for Kaili and Megan to go out that way, but looking at the big picture, they did more than we expected this year.”

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Lady Heralds struggle with ball pressure, fall in second round

Posted on 22 February 2014 by La Habra Journal

IMG_7559by Erik Markus
La Habra Journal

A relentless full court press left the Whittier Christian girls’ basketball team scrambling to protect the ball in its second round matchup against St. Joseph of Santa Maria.

St. Joseph’s furious defensive effort led to easy baskets in transition and a lopsided 70-32 victory in the second round of the CIF-SS Division 4A playoffs, Saturday night at Whittier Christian High.

The Lady Knights jumped out to a commanding lead, up 17-5 with two minutes left in the first quarter and never looked back.

“They were just making layup after layup,” head coach Grace Ricafranca said.

With starting point guard Priscilla Zamorano out with a knee injury, St. Joseph capitalized on the Lady Herald’s ball-handling struggles.

“We had a difficult time bringing the ball down and setting up into our offense,” Ricafranca said. “We were very uncomfortable as far as ball handling wise today and we just lost control.”

Without their primary ball handler, the Lady Heralds relied on Sydney Lopez not only to rebound and defend the paint, but also set up her teammates.

“She plays our 1 through 5 and she’s able to do it all,” Ricafranca said.

Unfortunately for the Lady Heralds, St. Joseph (17-9) came prepared to prevent her from taking over.

“I thought we did a good job taking (Lopez) out of her game, making her have to work,” said Ed Torres, St. Joseph head coach. “We that knew we had to stop her, their leading scorer, leading everything. We knew we had to try and neutralize her.”

From there the Lady Knights were able to individually stop their matchups. St. Joseph junior, Syenna Ramirez shut down Hannah Yoshihara, limiting her to just six points and led her team in scoring with 31 points.

Senior Kaitlyn Flowers scored 23 points as well as teamed up with Kaitlyn Jarrett to shut down the Lady Herald’s inside presence.

With the loss, the Lady Heralds finish their season 15-12. Seven of their 13 players will return next year, including Christa Evans who battled for 11 points, to lead her team, including five points in the fourth quarter.

“A lot of these girls have not only grown as basketball players but as young women,” Ricafranca said. “I think that the suffering has allowed us to develop our character and also learn how to persevere.”

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Size disadvantage dooms Lady Raiders in first round against Patriot

Posted on 22 February 2014 by La Habra Journal

Senior Lauren Nakahara scored nine points in her final game at Sonora High. The Lady Raiders fell to Patriot in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 2A playoffs, 52-39 at Patriot High, Saturday night.

Senior Lauren Nakahara scored nine points in her final game at Sonora High. The Lady Raiders fell to Patriot in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 2A playoffs, 52-39 at Patriot High, Saturday night.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

RIVERSIDE – After earning a spot in the CIF-SS Division 2A playoffs as an at-large team, the Sonora girls’ basketball team couldn’t overcome a size disadvantage against Patriot, falling 52-39 in the first round, Saturday night at Patriot High.

The Lady Warriors dominated in the paint on both sides of the ball, blocking shots on the defensive end, while backing in Sonora’s interior defenders and knocking down layups on the offensive end.

“We struggled attacking the zone, at times we did what we wanted,” Barajas said. “We got a little flustered in the beginning and we weren’t really disciplined about setting picks or reading the right gaps. When we did, I thought we got some good looks, but we needed to do that consistently.”

Patriot’s Tamia Hewitt led all scorers with 16 points and did all of her damage in the paint. Sabrina Avery added 12 points for the Lady Warriors.

Defensively, Sonora tried using a full-court press to speed up Patriot’s offense with the hopes that it led to turnovers.

However, when Patriot got the ball across midcourt, it found success by getting the ball into the interior.

“We knew that once they got to half court, their size and strength would be imposing on us,” Barajas said. “We needed to get our double teams a little bit quicker off the block. Once they got inside, there wasn’t much we could do.”

Offensively, Patriot’s size and zone defense prevented the Lady Raiders from attempting to push shots inside.

Instead, Sonora had to settle for outside jumpers, but they weren’t falling early on as Patriot led 29-8 after the first half.

After the Lady Warriors (23-3) pushed the lead to its highest point at 34-11, the Lady Raiders found some success in the fourth quarter.

Megan Matsumoto hit two 3-pointers, while Andrea Agramon and Lauren Nakahara added five points each in the final quarter, but the deficit was too much to overcome.

“I thought we gave great effort today, but we really needed to turn them over a bit more,” Barajas said.

Marissa Dunn led the Lady Raiders with 10 points, while Matsumoto and Nakahara added nine points each.

In addition to her point total, Hewitt added 10 rebounds, while Avery secured nine rebounds for Patriot.

The loss ends Sonora’s season at 11-16 overall, but the playoff experience should provide a benefit for the future.

“This is extremely valuable, we were so excited for all these opportunities because it sort of gets the fear out,” Barajas said. “They know what to expect in the coming years, they know how to prepare, they know what the top teams are going to look like. Our future looks bright and we know that the kids are going to put in the work to get to the next level.”

Barajas will be losing two seniors to graduation, one being starting point guard Nakahara, who had been a varsity starter for three years.

“Both are really great kids,” Barajas said. “Lauren has been a major part of our success. This year was obviously tough…but she’s a tough kid, she’s never missed a practice, she’s there every day working hard. I’m so proud of her and I know she’s going to have a bright future with whatever she does because she’s such a great kid and has a great work ethic.”

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