Christian Labadie | La Habra Journal

Posted on 04 January 2014 by La Habra Journal

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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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