Posted on 20 December 2013 by La Habra Journal
La Habra’s Adam Cooley fights off La Serna’s Perris Griffith (front) and Michael Prouty for two of his team-high 23 points in La Habra’s 51-48 win, Friday night. Photos by Jay Seidel, La Habra Journal
by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
The La Habra boys’ basketball team started quickly and survived a furious La Serna comeback in defeating the Lancers 51-48, Friday night at La Serna High.
Forward Adam Cooley had his way with La Serna’s interior defense in the first half and the Highlanders constantly clogged up passing lanes, which led to a handful of fastbreak points.
However, the Lancers (4-4) made adjustments in the second half to limit Cooley’s involvement and used 3-point shooting to claw their way back in.
“With his leaping ability, he gets above defensive hands, so if he can get up quick, he can take all the time he wants up there,” La Habra head coach Dave Ploog said of Cooley. “In the second half, they keyed in on him a little better, so it was harder to get him going, but even late we were still calling his number and getting him in the post.”
Cooley led the Highlanders (7-2) with 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting and guard Zach Gray added 11 points, which included a pair of 3-pointers.
While La Habra’s ability to force turnovers and finish near the basket were bright spots, the Highlanders 14-for-31 night at the free throw line nearly put a damper on an otherwise efficient performance.
The saving grace was Gray down the stretch. The senior hit all four of his free throws in the fourth quarter. His final pair gave La Habra a three point lead with 30 seconds remaining.
“Zach was our best free throw shooter last year, he still is, but he’s struggling from the line right now,” Ploog said. “Still, we know that in clutch situations, he can make the clutch shot. We know we can trust him in the end. In terms of our struggles, I think it’s a mental thing, they’re thinking about it too much.”
La Habra’s Zach Gray drives around La Serna’s Abraham Gutierrez during the second half of La Habra’s 51-48 win, Friday night at La Serna High.
La Serna had three looks at 3-pointers within the final half-minute, but all three bounced off the rim, allowing the Highlanders to breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy their fifth consecutive win.
Cooley established his presence early, using his leaping ability to reach above the block and put the ball in off the backboard. He scored eight of his 23 points in the first quarter as La Habra led 16-10.
Twice in the first quarter, the Highlanders stretched their lead to 10 points as the defense forced turnovers by picking off passes.
“We knew that La Serna liked to drive and kick it to shooters, so we had to clog the middle to make sure they didn’t do that,” Ploog said. “We made an adjustment to switch their ball screen at the top because they got a couple 3s from that and they kept looking for that play, but they couldn’t get it anymore.”
However, from there the Lancers slowly creeped back. Victor Lopez led La Serna with 14 points, including four 3-pointers. Guard Jesse Garcia added nine points.
By the end of the third quarter, the Lancers had caught La Habra and even led by one point twice. However, La Serna went cold to start the fourth quarter.
Abraham Gutierrez, who scored seven points and was a threat from beyond the arc, went 0-for-6 in the quarter. As a team, the Lancers went 2-for-10 on 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, the Highlanders were getting to the free throw line after putting La Serna in the bonus before the end of the third quarter.
Gray’s free throws held off a charge led by a pair of 3-pointers by La Serna’s Giovanni Griffith.
La Habra will resume its nonleague schedule with the Whittier Holiday Classic, which starts after Christmas.
“We want to play the same way we did in our last tournament and I want them to have that attitude to win another tournament,” Ploog said. “We’re a defensive team, we keep teams in the 40s and not a lot of others can do that. Defense is where our strong point is, but I want to see us gel more on offense, really move the ball as a group because I think we’ll get better shots that way.”
La Habra senior Megan Chancellor attempts a jump shot in the fourth quarter of La Habra’s 49-33 win at La Serna, Friday night.
LA HABRA GIRLS VARSITY
A dominant second quarter went a long way for the La Habra girls basketball team in a 49-33 victory over La Serna, Friday night at La Serna High.
The Lady Highlanders swarming defense caused 19 first-half turnovers by the Lady Lancers. Meanwhile, freshman Emma Zener made four 3-pointers and led the team with 16 points.
Guard Lizette Martinez and forward Kaili Peko provided plenty of support with nine points each. Martinez grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
“They’re growing and starting to understand how to control the ball,” La Habra head coach Jim Bohn said of his freshmen. “We still have a problem with turnovers here and there, but Emma had a great game and made some big shots. We were pretty well balanced tonight.”
Zener immediately set the tone for La Habra (6-5) by draining a three-pointer on the team’s first possession. Later in the quarter, forward Megan Chancellor added a pair of baskets to push an early La Habra lead.
In the second quarter, it was more Zener, who scored five points while the defense forced 11 turnovers and held the Lady Lancers (1-5) to just five second-quarter points.
La Habra led 22-12 at the break.
La Habra sophomore Brittany Lara works against La Serna’s Marilyn Parminter in the fourth quarter.
“It was good to see the team come together and work off each other,” Bohn said. “We tried to push the tempo on the press and I think it’s something we need to continue to work on, but overall, they helped today on defense, they were switching well and played pretty good defense as a whole.”
Peko’s five third-quarter points helped the Lady Highlanders keep a double-digit lead going into the fourth quarter, where Zener again came up with two big 3-pointers to help La Habra run away to the 16-point victory.
Hannah Rivera led La Serna with 11 points, while guards Marilyn Parminter and Melissa Madrigal scored six points each.
La Serna forward Samantha Calderon was a force in the paint, hauling in a game-high 13 rebounds.
The Lady Highlanders (6-5) will ride the momentum into San Diego in the SoCal Holiday Preps Classic, which will start after Christmas.
“We haven’t played a lot of San Diego teams, but we have played a lot of tough teams already, so I think that experience will help us down there,” Bohn said. “It’s a good confidence builder and it’s great for the team to head down there after a win.”