Tag Archive | "Ryan Esslinger"

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Heralds shut down Templeton, advance to second round

Posted on 19 February 2014 by La Habra Journal

Jake Rivera led Whittier Christian with 13 points in the Heralds' 43-19 win over Templeton in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 4AA playoffs, Wednesday night at home.

Jake Rivera led Whittier Christian with 13 points in the Heralds’ 43-19 win over Templeton in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 4AA playoffs, Wednesday night at home.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

In the first quarter of its CIF-SS Division 4AA first round playoff game at home, the Whittier Christian boys’ basketball team looked as if it was the team that had just made a five-hour trip, coming out flat and falling behind against Templeton.

However, after a brief talk from the coaching staff, the Heralds’ defense completely shut down the Eagles from the second quarter on, holding Templeton without a field goal over the final 24 game minutes in a 43-19 first-round win, Wednesday night at home.

“We definitely came out slow, I don’t know if it was nerves for playoffs, but Coach got on us right away and told us we needed to pick it up,” said Ryan Esslinger, team captain. “I think we responded well. I thought it was a really good defensive game for us.”

Offensively, the Heralds woke up in the third quarter, using its size advantage to bully its way to offensive rebounds and put-back points.

Stephen Nolin scored six of his eight points in the third quarter, while Shawn Stolt added half of his eight points in the quarter as the Heralds turned a five-point advantage into a 22-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

“We talked before the game about our size advantage and thought, ‘What good is it to have size advantage if you don’t use it?’” said Sherwin Durham, Heralds head coach. “I don’t think we did a good job of that in the first quarter, but then we got our posts some touches, which opened up the perimeter. We switched up the offense and focused on post screens to get our inside guys better looks.”

However, it was a five-point swing by Jake Rivera that gave the Heralds its initial separation. Rivera was fouled during a put-back and made the ensuing free throw.

On the next possession, Rivera snuck around the defense on the baseline. Ryan Esslinger lobbed a pass from the left side, which Rivera easily converted into a layup and a 22-13 lead.

“We knew we had a height advantage, so the coaches told us to move the ball and get our posts some touches,” Esslinger said. “Shawn and big Steve came up huge in the second half.”

Whittier Christian cruised to the win in the fourth quarter.

But the game wasn’t a runaway for the Heralds early on. After taking a brief lead in the first quarter, Templeton drained a trio of 3-pointers to take early control.

Guard Matt Ehrke hit two of those 3-pointers for an early 6-6 tie. He scored all seven of his points in the first quarter.

Guard Matt Jardini hit a late 3-pointer to give the Eagles a 12-9 lead after the first quarter.

Templeton, playing without leading scorer Will Mehring, was led by Jardini with nine points, five of which came from the free-throw line.

“I think we were a little overanxious, it being a playoff game at home,” Durham said. “We came out a little flat, but we really didn’t have to get on them, they knew and after that, we pretty much took care of business.”

After the discussion between quarters, the Heralds held Templeton to two points combined in the second and third quarters.

Meanwhile, Jake Rivera got going with a pair of baskets, scoring four of his game-high 13 points in the second quarter and leading Whittier Christian to a 17-12 halftime lead.

“It feels good to move on, last year was pretty disappointing,” Esslinger said. “This year, to move on and try to make a run at this, I think we have the talent to do it, so it’ll be fun.”

Ryan Esslinger added seven points for the Heralds. Stolt led the team with eight rebounds, while Rivera, Nolin and Jimmy West added six rebounds each.

Whittier Christian will head to either Laguna Beach High for a matchup with the Breakers on Friday at 7 p.m. Laguna Beach defeated Bosco Tech 58-42 in the first round.

“We know a little bit about Laguna Beach, they can shoot the ball, but they’re not as deep, they go about six players,” Durham said. “We just have to try to maintain against their shooters.”

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Whittier Christian basketball can’t find shooter’s touch against Village Christian

Posted on 14 February 2014 by La Habra Journal

Ryan Esslinger led the Heralds with 12 points in a 61-30 loss to Village Christian at home, Thursday night.

Ryan Esslinger led the Heralds with 12 points in a 61-30 loss to Village Christian at home, Thursday night.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

After holding a potent Village Christian offense to just 18 points in the first half, the Whittier Christian boys’ basketball team couldn’t contain leading scorer Bennie Boatwright and the Crusaders in the second half in a 61-30 loss, Thursday night at Whittier Christian High.

Boatwright, a 6-foot-9 forward, torched the Heralds for 19 of his game-high 25 points in the second half and the Crusaders’ full-court pressure defense forced the Heralds to play at Village Christian’s up-tempo style.

With Village Christian (21-4, 8-0) dictating the pace, the Heralds struggled from the floor, hitting 11 of 49 shots in the game.

The Heralds (16-9, 4-4) also struggled without guard Kaipo Villeza, who left the game in the third quarter after being hit in the head while coming down with a rebound.

“We just couldn’t get anything going in the second half and once we lost Kaipo, we had to go with a lineup we hadn’t gone with all year,” said Sherwin Durham, Heralds head coach. “Because of that, we had no court spacing and we just weren’t able to get any points. We scored 13 points in the second half and that won’t win you too many ball games.”

Because of the switch, Durham tried putting all four of the Heralds’ forwards on the floor at the same time. However, the switch slowed down the offense and the big men struggled to find inside shots against Village Christian’s matched size.

Still, despite the shooting woes, Whittier Christian’s defense was just as strong early on and Ryan Esslinger hit a buzzer-beating half-court shot at the end of the first half to shrink the Crusaders lead to 18-17 at halftime.

Part of the Heralds’ success on defense was due to the rebounding of Stephen Nolin, who came up with five first-quarter rebounds to prevent any second chance opportunities.

“We just wanted to keep them in front of us and make them shoot over the top of us,” Durham said of the defensive strategy. “I thought we did a good job getting a hand up in their face, especially with Boatwright. We wanted to make him put it on the floor because he’s a catch-and-shoot guy.”

In the second quarter, Village Christian’s only field goals were scored on 3-pointers by Boatwright and Matt Shashaty.

However, in the second half, Boatwright found space and, in turn, found his shot, scoring 11 points in the third quarter as the Crusaders broke away for a 41-28 lead heading into the final quarter.

“Once the game started getting out of hand, the floor started opening up for him and he knocked down shots,” Durham said. “To that point, I thought we did a decent job. He’s definitely a pure shooter and once they started getting him in transition, he got into a rhythm and he’s tough to guard.”

Nothing was easy for the Heralds in the fourth quarter. Boatwright erupted for eight more points in the fourth quarter and hit two of his five 3-pointers in the process.

Village Christian guard Jerrick Ahanmisi provided support for the Crusaders with 10 points, including a 3-pointer late in the first quarter that tied the score at 6-6 heading into the second quarter.

Forward Marsalis Johnson scored eight of his 10 points in the second half.

Ryan Esslinger led the Heralds with 12 points, scoring five points in each of the second and third quarters on 5 of 9 shooting

However, forward Jake Rivera had a rough night from the floor and finished with five points, while Shawn Stolt added seven points and seven rebounds.

Before the game, the Heralds were already locked into the No. 3 seed out of the Olympic League. Whittier Christian will find out its playoff fate when the CIF-SS Division 4A pairings are released Sunday afternoon.

“Every year, we break it up into three seasons, the preseason, the league season and the playoffs,” Durham said. “Now we know that the next time we lose, we’re done. It’s a one-game-at-a-time situation and I think the kids will be up to the challenge.”

Sydney Lopez finished with 14 points and 15 rebounds in a 37-26 loss to Village Christian at home, Thursday night.

Sydney Lopez finished with 14 points and 15 rebounds in a 37-26 loss to Village Christian at home, Thursday night.

GIRLS VARSITY

With a chance to clinch the No. 2 seed out of the Olympic League, the Whittier Christian girls basketball team struggled to hang on to the ball in the second half, falling 37-26 to Village Christian, Thursday night at home.

The result of the game forced a three-way tie for second place in the Olympic League, as Valley Christian also has a 4-4 league record.

Coin flips determined that Village Christian will be the No. 2 representative, while Whittier Christian and Valley Christian will battle in a tiebreaker for the No. 3 seed, Friday at 5 p.m. at Valley Christian High.

On Thursday night, the Lady Heralds (13-11, 4-4) struggled from the floor early, then struggled with turnovers in the second half.

The Lady Heralds also lost senior guard Priscilla Zamorano to what appeared to be a left knee injury after she was bumped while attempting to stop a drive in the second quarter.

While Whittier Christian kept it close in the first quarter, Village Christian’s Hadiqa Nayani took over in the second quarter by scoring all 13 of the Lady Crusaders’ points – including 8 of 8 from the free-throw line – as Village Christian took a 22-12 lead at halftime.

But the Lady Heralds came out fired up to start the third quarter and quickly reduced the gap to 25-22 thanks to a pair of baskets by Sydney Lopez and a big shot by Tammy Adereti.

However, the Lady Heralds went cold from the floor after that point, making just one field goal and a pair of free throws as Nayani and guard Hhala Aboul-Hosn lifted Village Christian (11-15, 4-4) to the win.

Nayani scored a game-high 17 points for the Lady Crusaders.

Lopez finished with 14 points and 15 rebounds for Whittier Christian.

The Lady Heralds will match up with Valley Christian one final time on Friday at Valley Christian. The team’s split the season series 1-1, with the road team winning both games.

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Whittier Christian basketball teams pick up close wins against league rival

Posted on 08 February 2014 by La Habra Journal

Kaipo Villeza (shown against Heritage Christian) led the Heralds with 12 points despite being sick during the Heralds' 46-42 win, Friday night at Valley Christian.

Kaipo Villeza (shown against Heritage Christian) led the Heralds with 12 points despite being sick during the Heralds’ 46-42 win, Friday night at Valley Christian.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

CERRITOS – Playing without guard Christian Alvis-Labadie, the Whittier Christian boys’ basketball team dug deep in order to defeat league rival Valley Christian in a tough environment, 46-42, Friday night at Valley Christian School.

The sophomore guard was ruled out for the remainder of the season after re-aggravating a separated shoulder during practice on Thursday afternoon. He originally suffered the injury on Tuesday night against Maranatha.

“In the back of our minds, we were all playing for Christian tonight,” said Ryan Esslinger, senior captain. “We had to pull out the win for him, which meant giving extra effort at the end. We were tired, but we fought through it and got a good team win tonight.”

Without Alvis-Labadie, Heralds Head Coach Sherwin Durham asked Esslinger and Kaipo Villeza to step up and play all 32 minutes in the back court.

Villeza, who was also fighting an illness, helped the Heralds build an early lead with eight points in the first quarter.

Esslinger saved his best work for later, finishing off the Crusaders by scoring seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter.

“We thought it was going to be a tough game, you can’t come in here thinking it’s going to be easy,” said Sherwin Durham, Whittier Christian head coach. “It’s all heart. These kids have been working hard for us all year and we know we’re going to get an effort from them every game, whether we win or lose.”

Instead of adding another guard into the lineup, Durham decided to run with three big men, using Jake Rivera as a small forward and having him play around the perimeter.

The system didn’t hinder the Heralds defensively, or in transition.

Ryan Esslinger (shown against La Serna) scored 11 points and hauled in eight rebounds in the Heralds' 46-42 win over Valley Christian, Friday night on the road.

Ryan Esslinger (shown against La Serna) scored 11 points and hauled in eight rebounds in the Heralds’ 46-42 win over Valley Christian, Friday night on the road.

However, even with three big men in at all times, Esslinger came away with eight rebounds, which ranked second behind nine rebounds by Stephen Nolin.

“Our bigs do a great job of blocking out their men so I can come in and take a rebound,” Esslinger said. “I have to give them the credit for that. We just came up big on the boards, it was part of our game plan. We wanted to make sure we outrebounded them.”

Villeza got the Heralds started quickly by scoring the team’s first five points. Whittier Christian went on a 9-0 run to finish the quarter, which included a buzzer-beating half-court shot by Villeza that pushed the lead to 16-6.

The Crusaders (9-16, 1-6) woke up a bit in the second quarter, led by Jordan Mitchell, who scored five of his seven points right before halftime.

Still, the Heralds led 26-17 at halftime.

“You could see that they were tired, you could look in their faces and know they were tired” Durham said of his two guards. “But this is what it’s all about. The season is winding down, they’ve been playing a lot of minutes for the entire year, so this is just another 32-minute effort from them.”

Valley Christian continued to claw away in the third quarter as forward Ronald Massey found space for six points and guard Stedmon Bryant hit a momentum-shifting 3-pointer toward the end of the quarter.

The Crusaders then went on a 7-0 run to tie the score with 6:12 remaining as the Heralds started to look fatigued.

But the Heralds (16-8, 4-3) had one final push in them. Shawn Stolt hit a layup and Esslinger put in two baskets from the baseline to give Whittier Christian a quick six-point lead.

However, Valley Christian brought the lead back down to two points with a pair of free throws by Vaj Rice.

The Heralds tightened up on defense, and Esslinger sealed the victory on free throws down the stretch.

“It was pretty intense in here down the stretch,” Esslinger said. “In the stands, both sides were going crazy, we just had to settle down, not force anything and try to run the clock out…. Kaipo came out big tonight early on and that was huge. He’s close to the smallest guy on our team, but he played big tonight.”

Villeza led all scorers with 12 points on the night, while Rivera added 10 points and Nolin added seven points and nine rebounds.

Bryant and Massey led the Crusaders with eight points each.

The win guarantees that Whittier Christian will finish no worse than third place in the Olympic League, which only guarantees playoff spots to the top two teams.

“Our focus was where it should have been tonight and this win is huge,” Durham said. “Last season, we barely squeaked in as the last team in the bracket. Hopefully we can avoid that this year and try to make a run at it.”

However, because of the Heralds’ overall season record, they should qualify for at-large consideration.

First though, Whittier Christian will close out its regular season with a home game against Village Christian, next Thursday at home.

“Our first matchup was good, but we’re down a point guard now,” Durham said. “We may reach down to the lower levels and bring up an extra body so that we can expand our guard play a little bit. I think we’re okay on the post.”

Sydney Lopez scored 17 points, including eight in a row during the second half, and hauled in eight rebounds during the Lady Heralds' 42-39 victory over Valley Christian on the road, Friday night.

Sydney Lopez scored 17 points, including eight in a row during the second half, and hauled in eight rebounds during the Lady Heralds’ 42-39 victory over Valley Christian on the road, Friday night.

GIRLS VARSITY

In a game where the winner had an inside track to the No. 2 seed out of the Olympic League, the Whittier Christian girls’ basketball team found an extra push in the second half and avenged an earlier loss to Valley Christian with a 42-39 win, Friday night at Valley Christian School.

Down by six points late in the third quarter, forward Sydney Lopez went to work, scoring the next eight points for Whittier Christian as the Lady Heralds went on a 12-0 run to take a six-point lead of their own, early in the fourth quarter.

“This win is huge, going into the game, the girls knew how big it was, we viewed it as a championship-type of game,” said Grace Ricafranca, Whittier Christian head coach. “We talked about going out there, fighting and wanting it and the girls did a great job with that tonight.”

Lopez scored 11 of her game-high 17 points in the second half and hauled in eight rebounds. Hannah Yoshihara was held scoreless in the first half, but bounced back with seven points in the second half to provide support.

Twice in the game, Whittier Christian (13-10, 4-3) faced deficits of five points or more. Both times, they fought back and reclaimed a lead.

“We’re a little bit experienced when it comes to close games and fighting from behind,” Ricafranca said. “We told the girls that if [Valley Christian] gets on a run, don’t get discouraged, keep mentally focused and stay in the game. We knew there were emotions riding on their senior night and we wanted to take advantage of that and rush them out a little bit. I think us being patient worked out for us in the end.”

Forward Christa Evans helped seal the victory late in the fourth quarter by grabbing two offensive rebounds off missed free throws, which allowed the Lady Heralds to take more time off the clock.

Off the bench, Evans finished with six points and seven rebounds, four of which came at the offensive end.

“She does a really great job of getting good positioning, especially on free throws,” Ricafranca said. “That was something that we needed with her going up against [Amanda] Chamberlain. Her intensity and her rebounding really helped us out late in the game to get that momentum.”

After a close first quarter, the Lady Heralds started the second quarter quickly with a 3-pointer by Amanda Ashworth.

Whittier Christian distributed the ball well, as five different players scored in the second quarter, leading to a 19-17 halftime lead.

The Lady Crusaders (10-15, 3-4) started to find a rhythm in the third quarter.

Led by Makenna Mageo, who scored all of her seven points in the third quarter, Valley Christian stretched a lead to 31-25.

However, that’s when Lopez went to work. The senior forward drove inside for two baskets and then hit a runner from just inside the 3-point line to beat the buzzer to tie the score at 31-31 heading into the fourth quarter.

She continued that streak by scoring the first three points of the fourth quarter.

“Sometimes when you don’t have that offensive flow, we need, we put the ball in Sydney’s hands and she knows what to do with it,” Ricafranca said. “She’s our biggest offensive threat, so having her go on that run was what the rest of the team needed to get going. We couldn’t have had this win without her.”

While the Lady Heralds had to contend with 6-foot-2 Amanda Chamberlain down low, they also put her in foul trouble midway through the fourth quarter.

Chamberlain and guard Amber Binford both finished with a team-high 10 points

Ashworth added another 3-pointer, Yoshihara hit a jumper and Christa Evans grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back in to lead the Lady Heralds to victory.

The Lady Heralds now have a one-game lead over Valley Christian for the No. 2 seed and a guaranteed playoff spot, out of the Olympic League.

Whittier Christian closes its regular season at home against Village Christian, a team they went into double-overtime against a few weeks ago, next Thursday night.

“We have to do a better job on defense, in the first round, we took a while to wake up and gave up some easy shots that shouldn’t have been there,” Ricafranca said. “If we can come out aggressive from the start, we should be able to take care of them. If we can limit turnovers, relax a little bit offensively and not get into foul trouble, I think we’ll be okay.”

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Maranatha completes season sweep of Whittier Christian basketball

Posted on 05 February 2014 by La Habra Journal

Ryan Esslinger scored five of his eight points in the third quarter and helped the Heralds stay close throughout the second half of Whittier Christian's 45-38 loss at Maranatha, Tuesday night.

Ryan Esslinger scored five of his eight points in the third quarter and helped the Heralds stay close throughout the second half of Whittier Christian’s 45-38 loss at Maranatha, Tuesday night.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

PASADENA – Despite executing its defensive game plan, the Whittier Christian boys’ basketball team fell short against Maranatha, 45-38, in a game that was up for grabs throughout, Tuesday night at Maranatha High.

The teams traded for the lead in each quarter, but Minutemen forward Nick Springer broke a 38-38 tie late in the fourth quarter with a layup.

After two free throws by forward Muusa Dama, guard Brandon Guillory stole a pass on the perimeter and took it the other way for a layup to extend the lead to six points with 44 seconds left and the Heralds couldn’t respond.

“We can always look back at a few things, we didn’t do well at the free throw line tonight,” said Sherwin Durham, Whittier Christian head coach. “We didn’t hit a bucket when we needed it and didn’t get key stops when we needed them. It’s a tough one to take, especially with how well we played for the majority of the game.”

At the free throw line, the Heralds made five-of-13 attempts.

The Heralds (15-8, 3-3) had to battle most of the second half without sophomore guard Christian Alvis-Labadie, who Durham believes suffered a dislocated shoulder while attempting a steal just 1:26 into the third quarter.

Durham said a trainer popped the shoulder back into socket, but the severity of the injury is unknown, as well as his timetable to return.

“He said he dislocated it, but [the trainer] popped it back in and said it would be best if he took a few days off,” Durham said. “It was either a couple days, or risk a couple weeks if he had played again. We made a decision not to put him back in to protect his health.”

In Alvis-Labadie’s place, Durham called on guard Reid Winans to fill an important role of guarding one of Maranatha’s two dangerous guards, which Winans executed well by holding the combination of Zachary Smalley and Xavius Boone to just four points in the second half.

The other guard was Tey Williams, who led the Minutemen with 15 points and did most of his damage while helping Maranatha (13-11, 5-1) overcome a deficit in the third quarter.

Williams also did a number in drawing fouls, as he attempted six free throws in the quarter.

“He made a difference in the first game as well, he was definitely a guy we were concerned about coming in,” Durham said of Williams. “He didn’t really get going in the first half, but made some key buckets in the second half. He’s a good player, hats off to them, they did a good job down the stretch and we just couldn’t get it done.”

Maranatha’s dominant third quarter evened out a very strong second quarter for the Heralds’ defense.

After falling behind 15-10 after the first quarter, Whittier Christian forced five turnovers in the second quarter and held the Minutemen to just two points as it took a 22-17 lead into halftime.

The Heralds took the lead with 3:11 remaining in the half when Alvis-Labadie hit a 3-pointer from the corner to break a 17-17 tie.

“We talked about transition, in the first game, they hurt us because their bigs run the floor well,” Durham said. “Tonight, we challenged our bigs to be able to get back and I thought they did a good job of that throughout the game. My kids came out and played hard, it’s just a hard one to take.”

Both teams took a few minutes to get going in the third quarter, but Maranatha regained its bearings first.

Springer started the quarter with a three-point play before Williams took over with a 3-pointer and four free throws.

Esslinger kept the Heralds close with five points in the third quarter. Kaipo Villeza added a 3-pointer and the Heralds trailed by three points heading into the fourth quarter.

“We need [Esslinger] to shoot the basketball and be more offensive-minded,” Durham said. “We look to him to shine as a senior leader, we thought he would be one of our top two scorers, but he’s been stepping up defensively, we may be asking too much of him to be able to do both.”

The Heralds continued to push in the fourth quarter and executed a pair of high-low post layups by Stephen Nolin to pull even before Maranatha’s 7-0 run to end the game.

Williams was the only player to score in double digits on the night. Ron Gore added nine points for the Minutemen.

Despite the injury, Alvis-Labadie led the Heralds with nine points. Esslinger and Nolin added eight points each, while Rivera hauled in a game-high 12 rebounds.

Whittier Christian will try to bounce back on Friday, when it hits the road to face off against league rival Valley Christian at 7:30 p.m.

“When you play [Valley Christian] you throw out all the stats, this is what it’s all about,” Durham said. “These kids know how big it is to go over there and try to knock them off and get back on the winning side of things as we try to make a playoff run.”

Sydney Lopez scored 17 points, including some tough inside shots, to lead the Lady Heralds, despite falling 61-38 to Maranatha on the road, Tuesday night.

Sydney Lopez scored 17 points, including some tough inside shots, to lead the Lady Heralds, despite falling 61-38 to Maranatha on the road, Tuesday night.

GIRLS VARSITY

Going into its road game against Maranatha, the Whittier Christian girls basketball team was determined not to let center Channon Fluker’s size dictate the game.

To combat the 6-foot-4 inside presence, Head Coach Grace Ricafranca double-teamed her in the post, only breaking if a shooter was in the corner.

The move slowed Fluker in the half-court offense, but it didn’t keep her from scoring 16 points, most of which came after offensive rebounds as Maranatha defeated Whittier Christian 61-38, Tuesday night at Maranatha High.

In addition, the Lady Heralds weren’t rotating quickly enough to account for Maranatha’s shooters, including guard Kei’lani Ando, who added 13 points for the Lady Minutemen.

“We wanted to double-team [Fluker], definitely, but our defense wasn’t rotating fast enough as far as a girl coming in off the inbound or popping over to the corner,” said Grace Ricafranca, Whittier Christian head coach. “We wanted to stop her, but we lost focus of all the other girls that were playing. We took a step back a little bit, but I thought we played well defensively in the first half. We just didn’t come out with the same intensity in the second half.”

Offensively, the Lady Heralds struggled inside due to Fluker’s reach, which made it tough to get Sydney Lopez going in the post.

The senior forward led the Lady Heralds in scoring with 17 points, but was held to just five rebounds, snapping a streak of six consecutive double-doubles.

In addition to Fluker inside, the Lady Minutemen (18-6, 6-0) used a full court press, which made Whittier Christian uncomfortable.

The Lady Heralds (12-10, 3-3) tried to speed up the offense, which led to turnovers, most of which came in a third quarter in which Maranatha outscored the Lady Heralds 20-5.

“They were pressuring us, but I think it was a mix of us being a little nervous and excited at the same time,” Ricafranca said. “They were getting hyped up before the game, so I think maybe the nerves and the excitement got to them because we struggled to get into an offensive flow.”

Down 50-23 to start the fourth quarter, the Lady Heralds clawed back a bit until guard Hope Peron hit a pair of jumpers and Ando nailed a 3-pointer.

Christa Evans scored nine of her 12 points in the fourth quarter while Fluker was on the bench for Maranatha. She also led the team with seven rebounds.

After Hannah Yoshihara hit a 3-pointer to start the game, Maranatha scored a 7-0 run and led from that point on.

Whittier Christian will look to turn things around when it faces off against Valley Christian, Friday night at 6 p.m. at Valley Christian High.

“I just want to see us keep fighting,” Ricafranca said. “We beat [Valley Christian] twice early this year, so I think they were hungry and I don’t think we were ready for that when we saw them for the first time in league. With a loss like this, we want to come back with high energy. I think we’ve been really passive with swinging the ball along the outside, but hopefully with Valley, we’ll be more aggressive.”

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Whittier Christian basketball teams battle La Serna, gets mixed results

Posted on 04 January 2014 by La Habra Journal

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

Jimmy West gets around La Serna's Michael Prouty and puts in a layup for two of his 16 points in the Heralds' 41-36 win, Friday night.

Jimmy West gets around La Serna’s Michael Prouty and puts in a layup for two of his 16 points in the Heralds’ 41-36 win, Friday night. Photos by Jay Seidel, La Habra Journal

BOYS VARSITY

On a night where offense was hard to come by, the Whittier Christian boys’ basketball team overcame an early deficit to defeat La Serna 41-36, Saturday night at La Serna High.

Without starters Stephen Nolin and Shawn Stolt, coupled with Jake Rivera’s foul trouble, forward Jimmy West filled the void and led the Heralds with 16 points and 13 rebounds.

But even West’s big night didn’t help Whittier Christian find its shooter’s touch. While the Heralds shot 1-for-17 on 3-pointers and finished at just under 30 percent shooting from the floor, their defense held La Serna to five points in the fourth quarter.

“We put a little more pressure on them, their main scorer only had four points,” said Sherwin Durham, Whittier Christian head coach. “We go in knowing that if we hold them under 50, we’ll win. We’re undefeated when we hold them under 50 points and these guys buy into that and take pride in the defense. Give them credit, defensively they’re a good group as far as help positioning.”

An offensive rebound and put-back by West gave the Heralds their first lead, 34-33 with 3:25 remaining in the fourth quarter. Free throws by West and Christian Labadie extended the lead to 38-33.

Whittier Christian's Ryan Esslinger works against La Serna's Giovanni Griffith in the first half of the Heralds' 41-36 win at La Serna, Friday night.

Whittier Christian’s Ryan Esslinger works against La Serna’s Giovanni Griffith in the first half of the Heralds’ 41-36 win at La Serna, Friday night.

But the Lancers (5-8) applied pressure when guard Jesse Garcia nailed a 3-pointer to reduce the lead to two points.

The Heralds’ defense took care of the rest. After Ryan Esslinger drained two free throws, he blocked a shot by La Serna’s Giovanni Griffith on the other end and grabbed the rebound to seal the victory.

Labadie scored 11 points and secured seven rebounds for the Heralds, while Esslinger added 10 points and four steals.

Rivera, who battled foul trouble throughout the game, finished with a season low two points, which snapped a streak of 12 straight games in which he’s scored in double digits.

“We knew that bench play was one of our keys to victory tonight and we didn’t go very deep into our bench, but those guys came in and played well,” Durham said. “Branden [Osborn] provided a boost and did things defensively that were helpful. We were down a bit in numbers, but they stepped in big tonight.”

The senior’s troubles began early as he picked up the team’s first two fouls within the opening minutes of the first quarter.

Without him, the Heralds (9-5) shot 1-for-13 from the floor and scored just three points by the end of the opening frame.

Kaipo Villeza dribbles around La Serna's Tyson Watson during the second half of Whittier Christian's 41-36 win, Friday night.

Kaipo Villeza dribbles around La Serna’s Tyson Watson during the second half of Whittier Christian’s 41-36 win, Friday night.

Elijah Robles hit a 3-pointer and Giovanni Griffith added two baskets inside as the Lancers led 11-3.

It wasn’t until midway through the second quarter that the Heralds’ offense started clicking.

Labadie scored five points in the second quarter, hitting Whittier Christian’s lone 3-pointer in the process.

Labadie found creative ways to distribute the ball in the third quarter, driving inside twice and finding Esslinger and West for easy baskets. However, the Lancers had five contributors in the quarter and maintained a three point lead.

The Heralds’ defense was at its best in the fourth quarter, where La Serna hit just 1-of-13 attempts while Whittier Christian took the lead and sealed it on free throws.

Griffith led the Lancers with 10 points, while forward Michael Prouty added six points and seven rebounds. La Serna’s leading scorer, Victor Lopez, was held to four points.

“It goes back to our defense, if we can get stops and some easy buckets in transition, we feel like the momentum will come to our side,” Durham said. “We feel it always comes back to defense, if we can take away their top scorer, or at least reduce what he does on a regular basis, we’ll be fine.”

Whittier Christian’s next scheduled game is its Olympic League opener against Maranatha at home, Jan. 14, but Durham said he is trying to schedule one more nonleague game before that date.

Guard Tyler Gibson attempts a shot in the second half of Whittier Christian's 52-38 loss to La Serna, Saturday night.

Guard Tyler Gibson attempts a shot in the second half of Whittier Christian’s 52-38 loss to La Serna, Saturday night.

GIRLS VARSITY

Coming off a tournament championship earlier in the week, the emotional high felt by the Whittier Christian girls’ basketball team came to a halt after a 52-38 loss at the hands of La Serna, Friday night.

The Lady Heralds struggled against La Serna’s full-court pressure and tried to rush the offense, which led to a high number of turnovers.

In addition, the Lady Lancers’ size in the paint made a difference, as La Serna (4-6) gained second chance opportunities with nine offensive rebounds.

“Tonight was a tough game, I think we came out slower than we’re used to and we played against a lot of height,” said Grace Ricafranca, Whittier Christian head coach. “It was a little difficult to find our shots early on, because they were very aggressive and they were bigger.”

Sydney Lopez led the Lady Heralds (7-6), but didn’t get many opportunities in the first half. She scored 13 of her team-high 17 points in the second half and came away with 12 total rebounds.

Meanwhile, Hannah Rivera led La Serna with 13 points, which included four 3-pointers. Guard Melissa Madrigal and forward Maddy Fitzpatrick added 10 points each. Fitzpatrick and Samantha Calderon led the Lady Lancers with eight rebounds each.

La Serna did the bulk of its damage in the second quarter, where it turned an 8-5 lead into a 32-15 halftime score.

“That kind of set the tone for the rest of the game, we were playing from behind and trying to fight for the lead and it wasn’t there,” Ricafranca said. “We started rushing the ball and we didn’t play to our strengths today, we didn’t take our time and we got into some early foul trouble with our point guard, which didn’t help our flow.”

Sydney Lopez attempts a shot while Megan Kleber screens a defender during the second half of Whittier Christian's 52-38 loss at La Serna, Friday night. Lopez scored a game-high 17 points.

Sydney Lopez attempts a shot while Megan Kleber screens a defender during the second half of Whittier Christian’s 52-38 loss at La Serna, Friday night. Lopez scored a game-high 17 points.

Fitzpatrick scored eight points, while Rivera hit two 3-pointers to lead La Serna’s 24-point second quarter.

Meanwhile, the Lady Heralds struggled with jump shots. Hannah Yoshihara went 1-for-8 in the first half, while Lopez was limited to just four shots. The senior forward still led Whittier Christian with four points at the break.

“Sydney had a slow first half because we weren’t getting her many touches inside,” Ricafranca said. “I thought she did a spectacular job in the second half, taking better shots instead of forcing the issue. She’s the rock of our team, so when she started picking up, the rest of the team felt more confident as well.”

Whittier Christian began to fight back in the third quarter and at one point, brought the lead back to single digits at 38-29 after a four-point swing in which Lopez hit two free throws and Melanie Vela hit a jump shot on the ensuing possession.

However, Rivera hit her fourth 3-pointer near the end of the quarter to push the lead to 41-29.

Despite Lopez’ seven points in the fourth quarter, Whittier Christian struggled to put a dent in La Serna’s lead and saw its five-game win streak come to an end.

“The press has always been our Achilles heel, it’s been that way all season long,” Ricafranca said. “Once we get the right rhythm, we play under control and relax a little bit, if we take our time and break through the press, we’ll be okay. We beat them in the second half, it was just the first half where they had a good run on us and we weren’t able to match their intensity.”

Tyler Gibson finished with seven points and eight rebounds for Whittier Christian, which will play Edgewood of Covina at home next Wednesday at 7 p.m. in a final tune-up before Olympic League play begins, Jan. 14.

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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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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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Boys basketball teams looking for bigger accomplishments in 2013-14 season

Posted on 06 December 2013 by La Habra Journal

SCROLL DOWN FOR PREVIEWS FOR ALL THREE AREA TEAMS

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

sonoraSONORA

A year removed from a Freeway League championship, the Sonora boys basketball team has some crucial pieces remaining to make another run at the title this season.

Though Head Coach Mike Murphy believes that this year’s Freeway League race will be much tougher than it was last year, he does have two returning starters and two bench players from a year ago who will be big contributors this season.

“We have a lot of guys back that were all factors in that final game last year against Servite,” Murphy said. “We knew that we were better, but that night they beat us, it was hard to take. We’ve changed our schedule and made it much more difficult. We don’t have a weak team on there, we want to be ready for playoffs and our league is much better. Last year we sailed with the exception of Sunny Hills, this year that won’t be the case.”

The junior class is strong for the Raiders this season, led by guard Josh Rodriguez and wingman Ben Rico, who will lead the team in scoring.

Then there is 6-foot-6 center Steven Murphy, who Coach Murphy believes is due for a breakout season in quite a few matchups.

But the man that Coach Murphy described as the glue that holds the team together is senior point guard Adam Marlow, returning as a third-year starter. Marlow will make an impact on the defensive side and has a knack for finding the open man.

“He’s the head of our team, he’s our leader, the other guys look to him,” Coach Murphy said. “He really holds us together. Josh is just so gifted, he’s very good and so is Ben, both of those guys will be recruited. The wild card will be Steven Murphy, he has a long wingspan, he’ll block a lot of shots and he’s a good rebounder. We just need him to play with more energy and more tenacity. I don’t know if he even realizes how good he is.”

Senior forward Roy Saucedo rounds out the starting lineup and forwards Jacob Rosander and 6-foot-7 sophomore Scott Riley will make major contributions off the bench.

But Christian Rhodes will be the team’s sixth man and a junior that Murphy will call upon when the Raiders are behind and need to go with a smaller lineup.

Like Sonora teams of recent memory, the Raiders quickness and ability to make jump shots will be a contributing factor when it comes to having success, but Coach Murphy would like to see the Raiders use Steven Murphy more often inside.

“Last year, we had so many guys that could score,” Murphy said. “This year, we have two guys that will lead us, but we need Steven to contribute more offensively. We have a tendency to start the game by taking a lot of 3-pointers, which can either help or hurt us depending on how many we make. I would like to see that change. We need to get better at getting Steven the ball inside.”

A season ago, the Raiders felt the effects when leading scorer Jimmy Golden went down with an ankle injury and was not the same when he returned, which led to a second round exit in the playoffs.

Because that finish was a slight disappointment for a talented Raiders team, Coach Murphy ramped up the nonleague schedule with the hope of giving his team the best challenge possible to not only prepare for the Freeway League, but the playoffs as well.

In addition to the El Modena Canyon Kickoff Classic and its own North Orange County Championships, Sonora will also upgrade its San Diego tournament to the Torrey Pines Tournament.

The Raiders also play nonleague games against Woodbridge, Servite, La Mirada and Dana Hills.

“We’ve upgraded our tournaments this year, ours is always tough and it’s easy to go 1-4 in that tournament,” Murphy said. “We upgraded from the Mt. Carmel Classic to the Torrey Pines. That will give us four really good games right before we get into league. We’re doing everything we can to prepare for our league, which will hopefully prepare us for playoffs.”

The tough nonleague schedule is put in place to get the Raiders ready for the Freeway League schedule, which Coach Murphy believes will be much tougher this year than in years past.

“Everybody in our league has improved, there’s not a single team in this league that is not better than they were last year,” Murphy said. “Sunny Hills has everyone back, I have to think they’ll be toward the top, but even teams like Buena Park and Fullerton will challenge this year. It’s going to be fun.”

highlander-logoLA HABRA

After battling adversity a season ago in a number of ways, the La Habra boys basketball team is ready to step back into the Freeway League race in the 2013-14 season.

Last year, the Highlanders brought in a new head coach in Dave Ploog and returned just two players. This season, an all-junior starting lineup returns for its senior season.

On top of that, the Highlanders have some depth, as plenty of bench players earned playing time a season ago.

“We have a really good core group of seniors who played significant minutes last year,” Ploog said. “On top of that, they’ve played 40 or so games in the summer and fall leagues, so they’ve really played a lot of basketball together and that makes a big difference.”

Senior guards Justin Jaimez and David Desatoff return for their third season on varsity, while forwards Alex Evanoff, Adam Cooley and guard Zach Gray return for their second season as starters.

While Ploog has scoring talent on the offensive side, the main focus for the team is playing solid team defense, which was the program’s primary focus in the offseason.

“We really tried to focus on finishing games, finishing plays,” Ploog said. “I think we’ve done a lot better job over the course of the summer and fall of focusing on situational basketball so that we’re on the same page, especially on defense. We’re going to be a defensive team that focuses on those types of strategies this year.”

Ploog went on to say that he would like to see the defense as more controlled, but if the team can force a turnover, he wants to see the team push for more fast break points.

Cooley and Gray look to be the top two in scoring and both have the ability to drive inside and find the basket or get to the free throw line.

Evanoff provides a big body inside and will contribute most with his rebounding, while Jaimez will run the offense from the point guard position and facilitate the offense.

However, the Highlanders will be without Desatoff until mid-January due to a medical condition. Instead, senior Anthony Sciacca will start at the small forward position.

“JJ is going to be our defensive specialist and he’s one of our captains, so we’re really relying on his and David’s leadership,” Ploog said. “Adam has become a great offensive player, he’s really worked on his game offensively, so he and Zach will lead in that regard. Michael [Banks] has stepped up his defense and has done a great job of figuring out ways to use his body in the paint. Those guys will all get significant minutes and we’ll have others who will compete for spots which will make us better in the long run.”

Forward Banks and guards Josh Garcia and Peter Hutchison will provide plenty of help with scoring off the bench. Banks and Hutchison received plenty of playing time last season.

Forward Devin Melendez will provide another inside presence for Evanoff.

This year’s team employs all seniors except for guard Michael Liscari, who is a threat from three-point range and Edrick Flores, who will be tough to deal with in the paint. Both Liscari and Flores are juniors.

The Highlanders will again participate in the Coyote Classic and the Whittier Holiday Classic, but adds the Valley Christian Tournament, which takes the place of the Loara Tournament.

“The Coyote Classic is great because we get some nonleague games in a league opponent’s gym,” Ploog said. “What I like is that we play eight games within the first two weeks of the season, so it gives us a chance to analyze where our game is early and make adjustments. The things I want to see most is for us to work together on defense and to see us play with intensity, knowing that we’re playing for a common goal.”

When it comes to the Freeway League, Ploog is confident that if the Highlanders continue to have success on the defensive end, they could be a factor in the playoff race.

“I think that we can be there or close to it based on what we saw in the summer,” Ploog said. “I’m looking for us to take the next step this year and the guys know that. I think if we play good basketball, it could be there for us to fight for it.”

heralds_whittier_christian_boys_varsity_baseball_spring_11-12WHITTIER CHRISTIAN

Hindered by injuries a season ago, the Whittier Christian boys basketball team did not have quite the season it was hoping for, finishing fourth in the Olympic League and falling to a top-ranked team in the first round of the playoffs.

This season, Head Coach Sherwin Durham has the luxury of having most of his players return and a bonus in two transfers from Servite that should contribute in a big way this season.

“It just happened that they will be eligible right away, so we’re excited about having all the kids at the start of the year,” Durham said. “We have a good make-up this year with some returning outsides and a good inside presence. I’m hoping we can make a deeper run in the playoffs this year.”

Those transfers, Christian Labadie and Jake Rivera, will make an impact immediately on this year’s team.

Labadie will start at the point guard position, with long-range threat Kaipo Villeza beside him as shooting guard.

“Labadie is a sophomore and he’s talented, he’s going to run the show,” Durham said. “Kaipo may be small in stature, but he’s got a great perimeter shot that I think will help open things up for our bigs by knocking down some threes. Hopefully Stephen and Shawn will do what they need to do in the middle. Jake Rivera should be able to score from the perimeter as well.”

Ryan Esslinger, who was the team’s leading rebounder a season ago, will move from the guard position to start at small forward.

But the advantage that Whittier Christian has this year is size with 6-foot-6 Rivera at power forward and 6-foot-8 senior Stephen Nolin at starting center.

In addition, the Heralds have Shawn Stolt, who ended last season with a flurry, and Jimmy West, both of which can step inside and battle for rebounds.

“Ryan and Stephen will most likely be our captains this year because they’ve tasted that playoff experience,” Durham said. “We have a lot of guys that can contribute for us, so we’re going to try and spread it out. I like how we get after it defensively, I think easy buckets will start from the defensive end. We have great on-ball coverage and Shawn Stolt is a great shot blocker, which is a nice security blanket if someone gets beat.”

All-in-all, the Heralds have four players who check in at 6-foot-5 or taller.

Because of that size inside, Durham is hoping to see more balance in scoring this season. Villeza, Esslinger and Labadie have the ability to hit outside shots.

The Heralds will also call on Reid Winans, who earned experience last year, to help off the bench, along with guards Trevor McGee, Branden Osborn and forward Dylan Patel.

“If we get into the half-court, just to have those big guys down there a year better, coupled with our outside shooters, we’ll see what happens,” Durham said. “When you’re predominantly a perimeter team, to have that inside presence is a good thing, we just need to get them the ball on occasion and let them go to work.”

The Heralds will prepare for another run in the Olympic League by participating in the Orangewood Academy Tournament, the Valley Christian Tournament and hosting their own Leon Davis Classic.

This season, the Orangewood Academy Tournament replaces the North Orange County Championships from a season ago.

Whittier Christian also plays nonleague contests against Laguna Hills, Loara and Ontario Christian, with the latter two matchups coming within Olympic League play.

“It’s always important to get on a winning streak, so we’re going to try to get some wins under our belt and get accustomed to that feeling,” Durham said. “We weren’t able to do the NOCC because that’s our finals week, so we’ll miss that, but we’re looking to see some different styles so that we can make adjustments. Right now our struggle is guarding three-pointers, so we’re looking to improve upon that.”

In the Olympic League, Durham said that Village Christian is still the heavy favorite, but the rest of the spots are up for grabs.

“Village got even better heading into this year,” Durham said. “They got a transfer who will be another weapon. They’re the team to beat and the other teams have all improved too, so it’s going to be a battle. Last year we opened up at Village, which kind of put a downer on the league season, so we’re looking forward to improving upon that this year. We start with Maranatha in league and that will be a good test right off the bat.”

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Heralds offense shines in shootout win over Cerritos

Posted on 09 November 2013 by La Habra Journal

Receiver Noah Evans and quarterback Ryan Esslinger (shown against Valley Christian) connected 10 times for 173 yards and two touchdowns against Cerritos, Friday night.

Receiver Noah Evans and quarterback Ryan Esslinger (shown against Valley Christian) connected 10 times for 173 yards and two touchdowns against Cerritos, Friday night.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

Hoping to strengthen its chance at an at-large berth into the CIF-SS Northwest Division playoffs, the Whittier Christian football team lit up the scoreboard to the tune of a 60-44 nonleague win over Cerritos, Friday night at Whittier College.

A near replica of the Heralds’ home win from two weeks ago, the Heralds forced and recovered two key fumbles in the third quarter, which allowed the offense to jump ahead.

Quarterback Ryan Esslinger led the way, completing 20-of-24 passes with three touchdowns. He ran the ball nine times for 81 yards and two additional touchdowns.

Again, Esslinger’s favorite target was Noah Evans, who caught 10 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns.

“They were playing off of us so we knew we could get them on the short passes early and then get a deep pass or two,” Evans said. “Coming in, that was our gameplan as well as pounding it with Nick [Watase] and it worked out tonight.”

Nick Watase added two scores and led the rushing attack with 141 yards on 13 carries.

With the score deadlocked, 28-28 at halftime, the Heralds made a key adjustment in slowing down a Cerritos ground game that finished with a total of 505 yards.

“We were playing a six-man front and the only adjustment we made was to move our outside linebackers about a yard or two off the line of scrimmage,” said Sergio Gradilla, Whittier Christian head coach. “They were getting washed up in the crowd in the first half, but the adjustment allowed them to read plays and make their moves.”

The adjustment led to two fumbles on the Dons’ first two possessions of the second half. Whittier Christian turned the two turnovers into seven points, giving the Heralds a 42-28 lead.

They stretched it as far as 57-36 when Esslinger hit Derek Brush for an 11-yard score with the first play of the fourth quarter.

Jack Huitt led all defenders with 19 total tackles, while Ryan Senn recorded a sack and a fumble recovery.

“We knew we had to keep pounding the ball,” Huitt said. “The halftime adjustment was huge, but our thought process was that this could be our last game, so let’s lay it all out there.”

Both offenses let it all hang out right from the start. Of the combined nine drives by both teams in the first half, eight ended in touchdowns, with the Heralds picking up a defensive stop in the second quarter.

Cerritos senior LaMarr Crowder scored on a 78-yard run on the second play from scrimmage. He finished the game with 330 yards on 35 carries, scoring on runs of 32, 12 and 12 yards.

Watase scored the first two touchdowns for Whittier Christian on runs of 17 and five yards. Esslinger added a 15-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

Whittier Christian looked poised to take a halftime lead after Esslinger hit Evans for a 51-yard touchdown with 1:40 remaining in the half.

However, two defensive penalties allowed Cerritos to keep the drive alive and with one second remaining, quarterback Ki’Jon Washington scrambled right and found the endzone on a 12-yard run.

The ensuing two-point conversion tied the game.

Esslinger and Watase added touchdown runs in the third quarter and Evans caught a 17-yard touchdown pass on a bubble screen while the defense forced the two turnovers.

“[Offensive linemen] Kyle Slajer and Ryan Schemmer laid down some great blocks for me,” Evans said of his touchdown reception. “It was easy to follow them and find my way into the endzone.”

Brush added a late 42-yard field goal to lead to the final score.

Washington added 157 yards rushing and two touchdowns for Cerritos.

“My thinking was that if we got the stops, we would be able to keep scoring,” Gradilla said. “That was the point we would take over the game, thankfully we got those fumbles. That made the difference.”

The Heralds will find out whether they receive an at-large bid or not Saturday at 6 p.m.

“We did our job by winning tonight,” Gradilla said. “That makes things tougher on the CIF, we’ve lost to some pretty good football teams. We know we’ll be on the road against a top team in the first round if we get in, but we’d be happy to have at least one more week together as a team, so that’s what we’re hoping.”

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Heralds end league play with tough loss to Maranatha

Posted on 02 November 2013 by La Habra Journal

_MG_0201by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

PASADENA – For the second straight week, allowing big plays proved to be an Achilles heel for the Whittier Christian football team in a 34-24 loss at the hands of Maranatha, Friday night at Maranatha High.

Last week, the Heralds overcame four touchdowns of 40 yards or more to defeat Heritage Christian.

However, the Minutemen stuffed Whittier Christian’s rushing attack and forced quarterback Ryan Esslinger to beat them through the air.

Maranatha’s stingy defense forced three second-half turnovers by the Heralds and Minutemen quarterback Eli Snyder threw three second-half touchdowns to turn a two-point deficit into a 10-point win.

“Our kids played their hearts out, we just couldn’t overcome our injuries,” said Sergio Gradilla, Whittier Christian head coach. “We have so many key guys out and it’s not an excuse, our guys played hard and we had a chance to pull it out, we just couldn’t get it done.”

Overall, it was a frustrating night for the Heralds (5-4, 2-2), who lost both a chance at a shared league title and a guaranteed playoff spot with the loss.

Esslinger completed nine-of-27 passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns, but threw three interceptions, two of which were tipped into the hands of Maranatha defenders.

A week after rushing for 323 yards on 57 carries, Nick Watase saw limited play due to a minor ankle injury. He finished with 13 carries for 38 yards.

Once again, the Heralds started off quickly, scoring on their first two drives, which were aided by defensive personal fouls.

On a 4th-and-goal play, Esslinger found Jack Huitt for a five-yard score.

But Maranatha responded immediately when running back Caleb Devine raced 76 yards up the left sideline for a touchdown. Devine finished with 18 carries for 104 yards and also caught a touchdown pass.

Michael Cajero capped Whittier Christian’s ensuing drive with a five-yard touchdown run and Derek Brush added a 27-yard field goal in the second quarter to put the Heralds up 16-7.

However, the Minutemen (7-2, 3-0) would head into halftime with momentum after Snyder scrambled to the left and threw a deep ball that was caught by Joseph Karavedas while falling out of bounds. The referees awarded the 35-yard touchdown after seeing that the pylon was knocked over, bringing the halftime score to 16-14.

“There were four big plays that they had that killed us, just absolutely killed us,” Gradilla said.

Maranatha scored on its first two drives of the third quarter on a 61-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Devine and a 34-yard touchdown reception by Darron McWhorter, which gave the hosts a 27-16 lead.

On McWhorter’s touchdown grab, Snyder scrambled to his right, looked back and found his receiver wide open on the left side, making it an easy touchdown play.

Snyder completed 18-of-30 passes for 273 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions for the Minutemen. Both interceptions were caught by Cooper Hughes in the first half.

“We had talked about it all week that this was a big-play team,” Gradilla said. “We couldn’t give up the big plays and we had to make them drive. When the quarterback scrambles, we had guys that didn’t stay where they were supposed to be.”

The Heralds responded early in the fourth quarter as Esslinger hit Noah Evans for a 16-yard touchdown. Evans led Whittier Christian with four catches for 44 yards.

Esslinger then hit Brush for the two-point conversion to put the Heralds within three points.

But that’s as close as Whittier Christian got. With just over three minutes to play, Snyder found Aidan Yamada for a 10-yard touchdown.

Esslinger was intercepted on a tipped ball by Devine on the ensuing possession, which allowed Maranatha to run down the clock.

Dexter Myers hauled in the other two interceptions for the Minutemen.

Whittier Christian will close out the regular season with a home game against Cerritos at Whittier College, next Friday night.

Gradilla and the team will then have to hope for an at-large bid into the CIF-SS Northwest Division playoffs.

“We have to beat Cerritos, they’re a good physical team,” Gradilla said. “After that it’s up to the CIF to determine if we deserve an at-large, but we’re hoping. We’ll have to wait and see.”

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