Tag Archive | "Sydney Lopez"

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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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Relentless Lady Heralds force overtime, move on in Division 4A

Posted on 20 February 2014 by La Habra Journal

Sydney Lopez scored a team-high 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the Lady Heralds' 53-50 overtime win over St. Margaret's in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 4A playoffs, Thursday night.

Sydney Lopez scored a team-high 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the Lady Heralds’ 53-50 overtime win over St. Margaret’s in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 4A playoffs, Thursday night.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – Behind the duo of Sydney Lopez and freshman Christa Evans in the paint, the Whittier Christian girls’ basketball team fought off St. Margaret’s, earning a momentum-building 53-50 overtime win on the road in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 4A playoffs.

After trailing throughout the first three quarters, Evans grabbed offensive rebounds and went to work, scoring her team’s first eight points of the fourth quarter to give the Lady Heralds their first lead.

Whenever St. Margaret’s double-teamed Lopez, the senior found Evans wide open on the other side of the basket for an easy layup.

“Sydney and I just work really well together,” Evans said. “Every time we’re in the game together, we try to utilize that to the best of our abilities.”

Despite taking the lead, the Lady Heralds allowed the Tartans back in as guard Julianna Coleman hit a three-pointer and guard Yamilli Burgos hit a runner to put St. Margaret’s back on top.

The Lady Heralds (15-11) then crashed the boards a second time, which resulted in six free throw attempts for guard Tyler Gibson.

The junior sank three of them to tie the score at 43-43 and send the game into overtime.

“I like Sydney and Evans in together, but I also like sticking Megan [Kleber] and Makenna Coleman in there because they’re a little quicker defensively,” said Grace Ricafranca, Whittier Christian head coach. “We want to have people that can move on the switch. Going back and forth between that and having the bigs to pound inside, it works really well for us.”

Tammy Adereti immediately put the Lady Heralds back on top with a layup off the opening tip of the period.

Later in the overtime period, Evans battled on the baseline for two tough layups, but Burgos stretched the floor on the Tartans ensuing possession and made it a one-point game.

After failing to convert on a free throw attempt, St. Margaret’s (16-9) rushed down the court with 25 seconds remaining.

However, Adereti intercepted a pass in traffic and Hannah Yoshihara hit two free throws to extend the lead to 53-50 with nine seconds remaining.

Coleman, who had hit four 3-pointers in regulation, missed on a final attempt, allowing the Lady Heralds to escape and move on to the second round.

“This is a really big win for us, I’m really glad we were able to pull it off,” Evans said.

Lopez led the team with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Evans finished with 11 points and nine rebounds off the bench.

Gibson added seven points, including four free throws down the stretch.

“Our bench did a great job coming in today, Evans had some big shots, she was aggressive down low and she helped us get to the free throw line,” Ricafranca said. “Once we started swinging the ball and getting open looks on the inside, I thought we did a great job of looking to score and getting to the free-throw line.”

The Lady Heralds trailed throughout the first three quarters as Burgos and Coleman paced the Tartans offense.

Burgos drove the lane and hit tough bank shots, while Coleman’s shooting forced Whittier Chrsitian to adjust around the perimeter.

Julianna Coleman led the Tartans with 23 points, while Burgos added 20 points.

“[Burgos] is a great player,” Ricafranca said. “She could shoot it from the outside and she could drive to the basket, she really gave us a tough time, but it’s fun for us because we have to figure out how to help with that. All in all, I think it was a good effort defensively.”

Still, Whittier Christian kept pace, trailing by three points at the end of the first quarter and two points at the end of both second and third quarters.

Evans gave the Lady Heralds their first lead with a three-point play to start the fourth quarter.

Whittier Christian will turn its attention to No. 3 St. Joseph’s in a second round game, Saturday at 7 p.m. at Whittier Christian High.

“I think we got a little lucky because we have some experience in overtime games, it seems to be our thing,” Ricafranca said. “They like to rise to the occasion and it’s the same thing almost every game, we like to get into these tough situations where we fight until the end, but these girls are relentless. They’ll do whatever they need to get the win in the end and that’s what happened tonight.”

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Lady Heralds shut down league rival, secure their spot in the playoffs

Posted on 14 February 2014 by La Habra Journal

Tyler Gibson gave the Lady Heralds a boost early on, scoring five of her seven points in the first quarter as Whittier Christian defeated rival Valley Christian 23-21, Friday night at Valley Christian High.

Tyler Gibson gave the Lady Heralds a boost early on, scoring five of her seven points in the first quarter as Whittier Christian defeated rival Valley Christian 23-21, Friday night at Valley Christian High.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

Despite a second consecutive off-night shooting wise, the Whittier Christian girls’ basketball team relied on defense and didn’t show signs of fatigue in defeating Valley Christian 23-21 to claim the No. 3 seed in the Olympic League, Friday night at Valley Christian High.

The Lady Heralds battled their Olympic League rivals less than 24 hours after suffering a tough loss at home to Village Christian, which forced a three-way tie for second place in league.

Valley Christian, on the other hand, had three days between games with a Bye on Thursday after defeating Heritage Christian on the road, Tuesday.

Team defense was the key as Whittier Christian focused on filling the gaps and throwing off the Lady Crusaders by switching from zone to man defenses.

That gameplan allowed just one point to Valley Christian in the second and third quarters combined, which gave Whittier Christian a 17-9 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

“Today was a big mental game for us, we had to stay tough and prepare ourselves on the way over,” said Tammy Adereti, who was assigned to defend against the Lady Crusaders’ top two scorers. “We work on defense a lot in practice. Our coach tells us, ‘Never let your man beat you,’ so that’s always the mindset we go out with.”

While Whittier Christian’s defense was causing fits for the Lady Crusaders, the offense wasn’t overpowering as the Lady Heralds hit just over 24 percent of their shots from the floor.

Sydney Lopez led the way with 12 points and 10 rebounds and again came through for the Lady Heralds in the second half with eight points and seven rebounds.

“Sydney is the backbone of this team, offensively she looks for her shots and we need her to score in order to win games,” said Grace Ricafranca, Whittier Christian head coach. “She delivers every time, under pressure, when we need her the most. She’s one of the top offensive players in this league and she proved that again tonight.”

Defensively, the Lady Heralds altered shots throughout the matchup until the final two minutes of the game.

Leading 23-13, Whittier Christian allowed a pair of 3-pointers to Makenna Mageo and Hailey Garcia, along with a pair of free throws by Amber Binford, but time simply ran out as Mageo’s 3-pointer left just five seconds on the clock.

“Our head coach, Grace, is really good about keeping us calm, she always reminds us that we have the lead and to take it slow,” Adereti said. “We just remembered to listen to her and keep our mind straight and it worked out for us.”

Both teams had fairly quick starts in the first quarter. After Valley Christian jumped to an 8-2 lead, Tyler Gibson made a pair of driving layups and made the ensuing free throw on one of them to cut the lead to 8-7 at the end of the quarter.

Despite only scoring four points in the second quarter, Whittier Christian held the Lady Crusaders scoreless and led 11-8 at the half.

In a developing trend, the Lady Heralds were at their best in the third quarter, as the defense held Valley Christian to just one free throw, while Lopez got going with a driving layup and a put-back while Adereti knocked down a big shot to extend the lead to eight points heading into the final quarter.

“In the first quarter, we took a little while to get into it, but later during the course of the game, I thought we did a great job of rotating,” Ricafranca said. “They adjust really well, the third has always been our strongest quarter, the girls just happen to wake up at that time and it’s better late than never. We snap into it and just start playing aggressive.”

Both teams played without key starters. Valley Christian (11-16, 4-5) was without starting forward Kate Vande Vegte, while Whittier Christian (14-11, 5-4) was without guard Priscilla Zamorano, who suffered a knee injury the previous night against Village Christian.

Binford scored six of her eight points in the first quarter to lead Valley Christian. Garcia scored all of her six points in the second half.

Valley Christian forward Amanda Chamberlain brought down eight rebounds, but was held to four points.

With the win, Whittier Christian claims the third and final guaranteed playoff spot out of the Olympic League.

The team will most likely be on the road in the first round, but will find out its first round opponent on Sunday when the CIF-SS releases the Division 4A playoff bracket.

“I don’t know how many more adversities we’ll have to face before our season comes to an end, but if there’s anything I’ve learned about this team it’s that they never give up,” Ricafranca said. “They’re always willing to put up a good fight and they enjoy the thrill and the adventure maybe a little too much, but they’re able to rise to the occasion and they do a great job under pressure.”

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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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Heralds spread the wealth in win, Lady Heralds fall short against Ontario Christian

Posted on 01 February 2014 by La Habra Journal

Christian Alvis-Labadie (shown against Maranatha) led the Heralds with 13 points in a 52-33 nonleague win over Ontario Christian, Saturday night at home.

Christian Alvis-Labadie (shown against Maranatha) led the Heralds with 13 points in a 52-33 nonleague win over Ontario Christian, Saturday night at home.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

Playing less than 24 hours after a crucial league game at home, the Whittier Christian boys’ basketball team showed no signs of fatigue in a 52-33 nonleague victory over Ontario Christian, Saturday night at Whittier Christian High.

In hopes of getting everyone involved and fine tuning before an important league game on Tuesday, the Heralds spread the ball and saw balanced scoring across the board.

Knowing that the Knights had a tendency to take shots from beyond the arc, the Heralds tightened up their perimeter defense and forced Ontario Christian to try its luck inside.

Whittier Christian’s big men didn’t allow much in the first half, holding the Knights to 17 points.

“We knew that if we took their three top scorers away, they were going to have a tough time scoring,” said Sherwin Durham, Whittier Christian head coach. “Pressuring the perimeter was part of our game plan as well. We really felt we had a good game plan going in as far as running them off the three.”

Christian Alvis-Labadie cut through Ontario Christian’s defense for layups and finished with a team-high 13 points.

Shawn Stolt hit all four of his shots from the field and finished with nine points. Ryan Esslinger and Jake Rivera added eight points each.

The Heralds (15-7) shared the ball efficiently from the start to take a 19-9 lead after the opening quarter.

Esslinger led the charge with six points, while Alvis-Labadie and Rivera added four points each.

“In our system, we don’t have a main guy, but we have guys that step up,” Durham said. “Every night, it could be a different guy. In our system, everyone can get shots. Our balance tonight was a good indication that we shared the basketball. Ball movement was one of our keys tonight.”

The Heralds continued to break away in the third quarter with the starters in. Stolt got going in the low post with a pair of turn-around jumpers, while Alvis-Labadie slashed through the defense for a layup from the right side and hit a 3-pointer later in the quarter.

Taking a 44-28 lead into the fourth quarter, Whittier Christian again put in reserves to close out the game.

The Heralds defense allowed three 3-pointers in the first half, but not much else as the inside presence of Stolt, Rivera, Stephen Nolin and Jimmy West caused fits for the Knights interior offense.

Point guard Tyus Dennis led the Knights with 17 points, which included five 3-pointers, three of which were made in the second half with the Heralds already out to a big lead.

Ontario Christian (13-6) made just five shots from within the 3-point line.

The Heralds, who have won 11 of their last 14 games, will head back into league play for a crucial road game at Maranatha, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

“Even the loss against Village, we’ve really been building that confidence,” Durham said. “That showed that we really trust each other and we picked right back up and got on the winning track. We’re coming to the gym and we’re thinking victories, playing together as a unit and we’re going to carry that over into Tuesday and see what happens.”

Sydney Lopez (shown against Heritage Christian) recorded her sixth straight double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds, but the Lady Heralds fell to Ontario Christian 40-37, Saturday night at home.

Sydney Lopez (shown against Heritage Christian) recorded her sixth straight double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds, but the Lady Heralds fell to Ontario Christian 40-37, Saturday night at home.

GIRLS VARSITY

The second time around was not as kind for the Whittier Christian girls’ basketball team in a 40-37 loss to Ontario Christian, Saturday afternoon at home.

In December, the Lady Heralds bullied Ontario Christian on its home floor in the championship game of the OC Knight Time Classic.

The Lady Knights (15-5) made adjustments and also took advantage of a flat and fatigued Lady Heralds squad.

At different points throughout the game, the Lady Heralds rushed shots and were a step slower than Ontario Christian.

Whittier Christian (12-9) was playing its second game in less than 24 hours.

However, at times it appeared the Lady Heralds would muster the strength to overtake the lead.

After guard Tiffany Bogea led the Lady Knights to a 19-6 lead, the Lady Heralds, led by Sydney Lopez’ seven second-quarter points, went on a 13-2 run to close the deficit to 21-19 at halftime.

Lopez scored 13 of her team-high 20 points in the first half. She also came away with 13 rebounds for her sixth consecutive double-double and ninth of the season.

But the team would come out flat again to start the second half, which allowed Ontario Christian to break away in part to a pair of 3-pointers by guard Anna Spykstra.

Megan Cunzi added a pair of baskets in the paint as the Lady Knights led 35-27 going into the final quarter.

For a second time, Lopez tried to lead a comeback late in the half and it nearly worked.

Guard Priscilla Zamorano stepped back and hit a 3-pointer that reduced the deficit to 40-37. However, the Lady Heralds struggled from the field after that point.

Hannah Yoshihara appeared to be hit on the arm as she attempted to tie the score with a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but no foul call was made and Ontario Christian returned a favor that Whittier Christian had given to it during tournament play.

Bogea scored 10 of her team-high 16 points in the first half, while Spykstra scored eight of her 13 points in the second half.

The Lady Heralds will head back into league play with a road game at Maranatha, Tuesday night at 6 p.m.

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Whittier Christian basketball teams earn sweep behind strong second halves

Posted on 31 January 2014 by La Habra Journal

Kaipo Villeza's runner early in the fourth quarter against Heritage Christian's Samson Young gave the Heralds a 42-41 lead early in the fourth quarter, Friday night at WCHS.

Kaipo Villeza’s runner early in the fourth quarter against Heritage Christian’s Samson Young gave the Heralds a 42-41 lead early in the fourth quarter, Friday night at WCHS. Photos by Erik Markus, La Habra Journal

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

When Whittier Christian traveled to North Hills to take on Heritage Christian earlier this month, the Heralds had to contend with outside shooting and a late surge, but hung on for a close win.

Friday night at Whittier Christian, the Heralds had their hands full with a completely different problem in Samson Young.

The Warriors’ 6-foot-8 forward pounded the Heralds interior for 26 points, but Whittier Christian fought back in the second half to take a 55-51 come-from-behind win.

“We had to go to a front, but even with that he was still effective,” said Sherwin Durham, Whittier Christian head coach. “In the first game, he got in foul trouble, but he stayed out of it tonight. He got his game going early, so we tried to front him and take away some of his touches with some back side help.”

The Heralds’ head coach knows that his four big men have 20 fouls to give and usually isn’t too concerned if one of them gets into trouble.

However, of those 20 fouls, 11 were called against Whittier Christian’s big men as they attempted to slow down Young. He attempted 16 free throws, sinking 10 of them.

Young’s 15 first-half points helped the Warriors build a 29-21 lead at halftime.

But the Heralds (14-7, 3-2) made defensive adjustments in the second half and chipped away on offense. Jake Rivera scored eight of his team-high 15 points in the third quarter as the Heralds moved the ball more efficiently and cut the deficit to two points heading into the fourth quarter.

Whittier Christian's Shawn Stolt hits a layup over the Warriors' Samson Young during the first quarter of the Heralds' 55-51 win, Friday night at WCHS.

Whittier Christian’s Shawn Stolt hits a layup over the Warriors’ Samson Young during the first quarter of the Heralds’ 55-51 win, Friday night at WCHS.

“All year, we talk about our defense triggering our offense, we made some stops and limited them in that quarter,” Durham said. “We felt that if we got some stops defensively and got [Rivera] some touches to get him going early, he’d deliver for us and he did that.”

That deficit was erased quickly when Christian Alvis-Labadie drove the lane for a tough layup to tie the score at 40-40.

After a free throw by Heritage Christian’s Michael Brandon, Kaipo Villeza hit a runner to give the Heralds a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Shawn Stolt padded the lead with a putback after Villeza punched the ball to him in the paint off a missed shot. The Heralds sealed the win with free throws by Ryan Esslinger, Villeza and Alvis-Labadie, who combined to go 8-for-8 from the line in the final quarter.

“We were still looking to stress the defense, we picked up the full court pressure and forced some turnovers,” Durham said. “The big play was Kaipo deflecting the offensive rebound and keeping it alive for Shawn. That got the crowd going and gave us momentum.”

The Heralds came out fluid on offense. Fighting against Young, Stolt found space in the low post and worked in six points on turn-around jumpers in the first quarter.

Alvis-Labadie added five points and Rivera added four points as the Heralds took a 17-14 lead.

Still, Durham felt like something was missing.

“I really didn’t like our focus, I think kids were elsewhere when we first started,” Durham said.

Whittier Christian's Stephen Nolin battles Heritage Christian's Samson Young for a rebound during the first half of the Heralds' 55-51 win, Friday night at WCHS.

Whittier Christian’s Stephen Nolin battles Heritage Christian’s Samson Young for a rebound during the first half of the Heralds’ 55-51 win, Friday night at WCHS.

The Warriors’ clear intention was to get the ball inside to Young and let him work. In the second quarter, he put Stephen Nolin in foul trouble en route to scoring eight points.

Senior guard Timothy Brandon hit a 3-pointer and younger brother Michael Brandon added a jumper and the Warriors (6-15, 0-5) took advantage of a Whittier Christian cold streak, outscoring the Heralds 13-4 before the half.

“We kind of got away from what we’ve been doing well, which is share the basketball,” Durham said. “We started going back to individual play and at halftime it wasn’t pretty in the locker room. We decided that we got ourselves here and we have to try and find our way out of it.”

The Heralds’ defense held Heritage Christian to nine points in the third quarter, which gave the offense a momentum that carried over into the fourth quarter.

Four Heralds scored in double digits. Stolt finished with 12 points, while Alvis-Labadie and Villeza added 11 points each.

Timothy Brandon and Michael Brandon added eight and seven points for the Warriors.

Whittier Christian will break away from the Olympic League for a brief moment to host Ontario Christian in a nonleague game tomorrow at 6 p.m.

On Tuesday, the Heralds have an important league matchup on the road at Marana

tha. The Minutemen defeated Whittier Christian 64-51 in the teams’ Olympic League opener, Jan. 14.

“They have a few extra feet on their court, it’s a college court, so we’re going to have to be in transition and get back on defense,” Durham said. “If we can do that, then I like our chances.”

Whittier Christian's Hannah Yoshihara attempts a shot during the first half of the Lady Heralds' 49-36 win over Heritage Christian, Friday night at WCHS.

Whittier Christian’s Hannah Yoshihara attempts a shot during the first half of the Lady Heralds’ 49-36 win over Heritage Christian, Friday night at WCHS.

GIRLS VARSITY

After enduring one of her worst shooting nights a week ago, senior guard Hannah Yoshihara continued to bounce back nicely for the Whittier Christian girls’ basketball team in its 49-36 win over Heritage Christian, Friday night at Whittier Christian High.

Since going 0-for-14 from the floor in a loss to Valley Christian last Friday, Yoshihara has put together back-to-back double digit scoring efforts. Her 13 first-half points helped Whittier Christian keep a 26-20 halftime lead over the Lady Warriors.

“After that game against Valley, she was really upset about the performance, so I think she’s been playing with a chip on her shoulder,” said Grace Ricafranca, Whittier Christian head coach. “She’s been determined to provide offense for our team and we know that without her, we won’t get the wins that we need. We’re trying to feed her the ball as much as possible to keep us going offensively.”

The senior guard finished with 15 points and led the team at the break with forward Sydney Lopez in foul trouble.

Lopez led the team with 17 points and a team-high 12 rebounds. After Yoshihara led the team in the first half, Lopez made her presence felt late, scoring 11 points over the final two quarters.

Defensively, the Lady Heralds (12-8, 3-2) made adjustments around the perimeter, holding Heritage Christian to just two 3-pointers, a significant improvement from the nine 3-pointers the team allowed at Heritage Christian, Jan. 17.

“We definitely wanted to man them up, last time they were swinging the ball really well,” Ricafranca said. “We wanted to make sure we were there for every switch, every open shot they had along the arc and I thought our man defense did a lot better against them today.”

Whittier Christian's Sydney Lopez drives inside against Heritage Christian's Liana Minassian during the second half of the Lady Heralds' 49-36 win, Friday night.

Whittier Christian’s Sydney Lopez drives inside against Heritage Christian’s Liana Minassian during the second half of the Lady Heralds’ 49-36 win, Friday night.

Without the outside shots falling, Heritage Christian (5-17, 0-5) became stagnant in the second half as the Lady Heralds forced key turnovers.

Late in the third quarter, Sydney Lopez intercepted a Heritage Christian pass, drove the length of the court and laid it in with the left hand as she was fouled. The ensuing free throw opened up a 40-29 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

She added six points and six rebounds in the final quarter as the Lady Heralds cruised to their second consecutive win.

“We definitely have momentum right now, we’re still riding the momentum of that [double-overtime win against Village Christian],” Ricafranca said. “We’re a little hungry for it and we want to come back strong in the second half of league and beat Valley and Maranatha. We’re looking to improve each game.”

Along with Yoshihara’s shooting, Whittier Christian worked the high-low post well in the first half. Twice in the second quarter, Lopez got the ball in the high post, which drew an extra defender and left fellow forward Megan Kleber wide open under the basket.

Lopez recognized the switch and dished out two of her four assists.

However, led by guard Sabrina Zarifi, the Lady Warriors chipped away at the lead in the second quarter, reducing the deficit to three points on two separate occasions.

Yoshihara took care of the pressure with two late 3-pointers as the Lady Heralds went into halftime up 26-20.

Whittier Christian ran away with it in the second half.

“I don’t know exactly what it is,” Ricafranca said of her team’s ability to take control in the second half. “The game plan every game is to start strong and play aggressively, but something just snaps in the second half. If I could get them to do that in the first half, the rest of the season would be a bit easier.”

Zarifi led the Lady Warriors with 13 points. Liana Minassian, who burned the Lady Heralds with four 3-pointers in the first matchup, was held to two the second time around and finished with 11 points.

Whittier Christian will face Ontario Christian for the second time this season when the teams meet up tomorrow at 4:30 p.m.

Following the nonleague contest, Whittier Christian faces Maranatha and 6-foot-4 Channon Fluker on the road, Tuesday night.

“We have some game plans defensively that will hopefully help to contain her,” Ricafranca said. “We’re going to make it more difficult for her to get shots and try to make her uncomfortable. Hopefully it will transition into our offense. I anticipate it being a great game.”

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Heralds break away late, girls hoops suffers tough overtime loss to league rival

Posted on 25 January 2014 by La Habra Journal

Jake Rivera scored eight points down the stretch and led the Heralds with 16 points in a 53-33 win over Valley Christian, Friday night at WCHS.

Jake Rivera scored eight points down the stretch and led the Heralds with 16 points in a 53-33 win over Valley Christian, Friday night at WCHS.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

After maintaining a slim lead through three quarters of a defensive battle, the Whittier Christian boys’ basketball team exploded in the fourth quarter, running away from Valley Christian in a 53-33 league victory, Friday night at home.

The Heralds took control after a technical foul that was assessed to the Crusaders turned into a quick 5-0 swing that put Whittier Christian up by double digits.

After the technical foul was called, Kaipo Villeza hit two free throws and then drained a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession.

“I think we’re looking good, especially against zone defenses,” Villeza said. “Our offense against 2-3 zones is working well, we’re hitting the short corner or going to the high post to Jake [Rivera], we’re just finding our wings, which I think opens things up for our big guys.”

Jake Rivera scored eight of his team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter and Villeza added seven of his 13 points as the Heralds outscored Valley Christian 21-7 to close out the game.

Whittier Christian (13-6, 2-1) also took advantage of its size as Stephen Nolin hauled in four offensive rebounds and Shawn Stolt added two rebounds on the offensive end, which led to second chance opportunities.

Once again, Head Coach Sherwin Durham switched Rivera and Stolt for Stephen Nolin and Jimmy West and for the second consecutive game, it didn’t hinder the offense.

“I think we had confidence in our high-low game, we have players that can hit the free throw shot or pass it down to the low post knowing that they can finish,” Durham said. “It makes the game a little easier. We’re always trying to establish the inside-out type of game where if we get the inside going, then we can kick it out to guys with open looks.”

The Heralds stayed consistent on offense in the first half, putting up 12 points in each of the first and second quarters.

For the second consecutive game, Villeza got the Heralds started early, scoring six of the team’s first eight points with two 3-pointers.

“I feel like I’ve been more confident in the second part of the season,” Villeza said. “I’m not thinking about shots as much, it’s just catch-and-shoot.”

Valley Christian (9-13, 1-3) pulled within one point late in the second quarter after guard Stedmon Bryant hit his third 3-pointer of the half, but the Heralds’ got baskets by Nolin and Rivera to push the lead to 24-19 at halftime.

After a low-scoring third quarter, Valley Christian’s Vaj Rice got tangled up with Nolin during a Heralds’ possession leading to a pushing foul called against Nolin early in the fourth quarter.

However, on the way back, Rice’s talking led to the technical foul. Rice, who is the team’s leading scorer, was held to six points.

“After that happened, I think the crowd got into it and we started to believe that it could be our night,” Durham said. “We try to back away from those deals. Rice was chipping away all night…. We wanted to make Rice go to his right, because he’s dangerous with his left. We didn’t think he was as polished going the other way and it worked out.”

Rushing to get back in the game, the Crusaders attempted to trap the Heralds on offense, but that led to two Rivera 3-pointers as the senior was left alone on the wing.

The Heralds cruised to the win from there.

“I think they’re a better team than they showed tonight,” Durham said of Valley Christian. “Their main player was hurting a little bit and they had to slow down and bring him in and out.”

Whittier Christian will head north to take on league-favored Village Christiain, Tuesday night at Village Christian School.

“Most people would not see us on the winning side, so we feel like we have nothing to lose,” Villeza said. “We’re just going to go in and play our hardest and hope for the best.”

Sydney Lopez led the Lady Heralds with 21 points and 16 rebounds, but fouled out in the overtime period during a 41-40 loss to Valley Christian, Friday night at WCHS.

Sydney Lopez led the Lady Heralds with 21 points and 16 rebounds, but fouled out in the overtime period during a 41-40 loss to Valley Christian, Friday night at WCHS.

GIRLS VARSITY

In a game fitting of the intense Olympic League rivalry between schools, the Whittier Christian girls’ basketball team suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss to Valley Christian, 41-40, Friday night at Whittier Christian High.

Makenna Mageo hit a game-winning free throw with 12 seconds remaining in the overtime period.

The Lady Heralds attempted a long jumper, but it bounced off the rim and Christa Evans couldn’t put the rebound back in time and Valley Christian escaped with the win.

The game was back-and-forth throughout, with the Lady Crusaders (10-12, 3-1) taking the lead and running with it in the second quarter, only to watch Whittier Christian storm out of the gates in the third quarter and reclaim the lead.

However, the Lady Crusaders would steal the lead back on Cherilyn De Jong’s jump shot, putting Valley Christian up 35-33 late in the fourth quarter.

Tyler Gibson tied it for the Lady Heralds by stealing a pass and fighting through traffic in the lane to put in a layup.

Sydney Lopez put the Lady Heralds’ up early in the overtime period, but fouled out with 22 seconds remaining.

Mageo answered with a layup and free throw for Valley Christian. After the Lady Heralds tied it on free throws by Prisicilla Zamorano, Mageo hit the eventual game-winner.

Lopez led the Lady Heralds (10-8, 1-2) with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Zamorano scored 11 points.

Mageo led Valley Christian with 14 points, while forward Amanda Chamberlain added 11.

After falling behind 20-14 early in the third quarter, the Lady Heralds went on a 13-0 run with seven points coming from Lopez and the other six on 3-pointers by McKenna Whan and Zamorano.

Leading by six points, the Lady Heralds went cold in the fourth quarter, hitting just one shot from the floor, which allowed Valley Christian to come back.

Whittier Christian will try to turn things around when it heads up to Village Christian, Tuesday night at 6 p.m.

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Heralds basketball teams escape late pressure situations on the road

Posted on 17 January 2014 by La Habra Journal

Whittier Christian forward Jake Rivera (shown playing at home against Troy) returned to form and led the Heralds with 19 points in a win at Heritage Christian, Thursday night.

Whittier Christian forward Jake Rivera (shown playing at home against Troy) returned to form and led the Heralds with 19 points in a win at Heritage Christian, Thursday night.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

NORTH HILLS – The Whittier Christian boys’ basketball team rebounded from a league-opening loss by keeping ahead of Heritage Christian in a 57-54 victory, Thursday night at Heritage Christian School.

The Heralds bucked another trend, winning their first game in which their opponent scored more than 50 points.

Forward Jake Rivera began to return to form with 19 points as the Heralds led throughout, but perservered through a pressure-filled fourth quarter to hang on to the victory.

“We wanted this one, it was a must win in my mind,” Rivera said. “It felt good to get back and get that first bucket in, it gave me confidence, but I have the easy job, I just hit shots. My teammates did a great job getting me the ball in good situations.”

In three separate occasions, the Warriors (4-9, 0-1) threatened to even the score by shrinking the deficit to three points.

However, each time the Heralds felt pressure, they ran the floor and trusted Rivera to put up a clutch shot.

The senior delivered with a three-point play and the Heralds used ball movement to run out most of the remaining clock.

“We just ran our sets, coach called good plays and we executed and hit good shots,” Rivera said.

The Heralds (11-6, 1-1) came into the game with a full head of steam, taking an 18-7 lead midway through the first quarter as Rivera scored nine early points.

However, consecutive 3-pointers by the Warriors’ Jacob Lahorra and Timothy Brandon helped to shrink the lead to 18-14 at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Heralds seized momentum using the same method as Kaipo Villeza and Ryan Esslinger hit back-to-back 3-pointers. The Heralds led 32-25 at halftime.

“We thought we could pressure them and some of that pressure resulted in some easy looks for us,” Durham said. “Once we got out and got comfortable, that was the gameplan. We wanted to pressure early and take their crowd out of it and we did until late in the game, but we hit key free throws and had some key possessions in the end.”

Villeza hit two more 3-pointers in the third quarter and Christian Labadie drove in for a layup to give the Heralds their biggest lead at 42-30.

However, that’s when the Warriors made things interesting with their long distance shooting.

Brandon led the Warriors with five 3-pointers for 15 points. He hit three of them in the third quarter to help Heritage Christian game some momentum.

Samson Young and Michael Brandon scored four points each down low and earned fouls to get to the free throw line.

However, Rivera matched with a pair of inside layups and two free throws. Stephen Nolin added a crucial offensive rebound and put back.

“We like the fact that we came away the victory, but in certain situations, we need to realize that [Heritage Christian] needed to come to us and foul us instead of rushing shots,” said Sherwin Durham, Heralds head coach. “There were a couple occasions where it shouldn’t have been this close in the end, even though we got the win, we need to be smarter and it’s a learning experience.”

The Heralds will attempt to fine tune their offense against zone defenses when the play Loara on the road, Monday at 4 p.m.

The Heralds jump back into league play with a home game against Valley Christian, Jan. 24 at 7:30 p.m.

“We want to try to get some other kids some playing time, you never know when you’ll need them down the stretch,” Durham said of the focus against Loara. “I think they’ll be throwing a little zone, so we’ll try to polish up the offense against that style of defense because Valley plays some zone as well.”

Sydney Lopez (shown against La Serna) led the Lady Heralds with 20 points and 16 rebounds in a win against Heritage Christian, Thursday night.

Sydney Lopez (shown against La Serna) led the Lady Heralds with 20 points and 16 rebounds in a win against Heritage Christian, Thursday night.

GIRLS VARSITY

NORTH HILLS – For the second consecutive league contest, the Whittier Christian girls’ basketball team had to play catch-up in the second half.

However, against Heritage Christian on the road, the Lady Heralds overcame a 13-point third quarter deficit to defeat the Lady Warriors, 51-48.

“I felt like we let up a bit defensively in the first half, we let them have their open shots at the 3-point line,” said Grace Ricafranca, Whittier Christian head coach. “We had to make some adjustments, we wanted to make our presence known and I think that’s when we gain our confidence offensively is when we get a good stop.”

Whittier Christian freshman Christa Evans put in the go-ahead layup off a pass from Amanda Ashworth with just under five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

The teams then frantically went back-and-forth, but went scoreless until Hannah Yoshihara hit a free throw with 11 seconds remaining.

“It wasn’t so much the pressure, but there was a lot of adrenaline,” said senior captain Sydney Lopez of the final minutes. “I play off that, so that helped in that situation.”

Evans’ shot gave the Lady Heralds (10-7, 1-1) their first lead since early in the second quarter, but it was Lopez who led the charge, scoring 12 of her team-high 20 points in the second half. She added 16 rebounds in earning a double-double.

Down 30-20 at halftime, Lopez scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the third quarter as Whittier Christian chipped away at the lead.

“We knew that we needed to come back and play harder,” Lopez said. “We made the adjustment to use the ball fake down low and we needed to open up and that helped in the third quarter.”

Evans scored six of her 10 points in the second half as the Lady Heralds made an adjustment to get the ball in the low post on the offensive end.

“We felt like we had a size advantage that we wanted to put to good use,” Ricafranca said. “It worked out well for us in the end.”

The fast finish matched a quick start by the Lady Heralds, who led 15-8 after the first quarter.

However, the Lady Warriors (3-8, 0-1) seized momentum with a huge second quarter.

Guards Sabrina Zarifi and Liana Minassian each hit a pair of 3-pointers and the team hit six total in the quarter as they outscored the Lady Heralds 25-8 to take a 33-23 lead at halftime.

Minassian led Heritage Christian with 14 points and Zarifi scored 13 points. Forward Briana Davis added 10 points and the Lady Warriors hit nine of their 17 attempts from beyond the arc.

After the Lady Warriors big second quarter, the Lady Heralds held Heritage Christian to 15 points in the second half.

“We knew that Heritage was going to be a tough opponent coming in, especially with them being defending league champs,” Ricafranca said. “We wanted to start quickly and we did that and when we had a chance to make our move, we capitalized.”

Whittier Christian continues Olympic League play with a home game against rival Valley Christian, Jan. 24 at home.

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