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Norwalk cruises to win first tournament of season

LADY TITANS SHOOTOUT GIRLS BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

By Loren Kopff

WHITTIER-Scoring was definitely not a problem for the Norwalk girls basketball team as the Lady Lancers rolled through their four opponents during last week’s Lady Titans Shootout Tournament hosted by Pioneer. Norwalk slammed the hosts 62-35 last Thursday evening to capture the championship of this tournament for the second straight season.

It marked the fourth straight game of the tournament, and the regular season, that Norwalk had scored at least 60 points. Defensively, the Lady Lancers averaged less than 30 points a game.

“It just felt like four games,” said Norwalk head coach Richard Drake. “It was four games that we need; four games that we could play all of the kids. It was a good way to get us ready for our tournament. You never downplay anything. You always take your wins because in the end, it all goes towards CIF and the playoffs.”

Norwalk, which never trailed in the entire tournament, bolted out to a 12-2 first quarter lead which at times seemed to be more defense than offense. The Lady Lancers had 15 steals in the stanza with senior guard Brenda Venegas scoring a pair of baskets off of eight of her thefts for the game.

Norwalk built a 17-point lead midway through the second quarter before the Titans reeled off nine straight points to end the first half. It was still an eight-point game early in the second half before Norwalk put the game away with a 16-0 run. Norwalk would outscore Pioneer 26-8 in the third quarter, led by senior center Maiya Griffin-McNair’s 14 points. She scored a pair of baskets off of offensive rebounds, as did senior forward Elizabeth Hernandez. Griffin-McNair led everyone with 24 points, 12 rebounds and 12 steals while Hernandez, Venegas and senior forward Jazzlyn Gaxiola all added 10 points.

Norwalk began the tournament on Nov. 26 with a 64-30 win over Covina as Griffin-McNair posted a career-high 30 points on 15 of 23 shooting from the field. She also had 12 steals. Hernandez, in her varsity debut, had 13 points and six steals. The next night, Norwalk slammed Gabrielino 60-26 as Hernandez and senior guard Cristina Batarse each scored 12 points while Griffin-McNair chipped in with 10 points. Hernandez also had 10 steals.

Norwalk completed pool play action on Nov. 28 with a resounding 67-27 win over Alhambra as the team began the game on a 20-0 run. Gaxiola had a career-high 18 points while Batarse scored a career-high 14 points.

“It’s taken three years for these kids to learn [assistant coach] Emily’s [Osongco] offense,” Drake said. “They still don’t know it as well as they should. But they know it better than last year. They’re able to move and they’re able to run backcourt plays and we’re shooting a little bit better from the outside.”

While the starting five had no problems in the tournament, the one negative was the minimal effort from the rest of the team. Norwalk got 37 points from the other seven players who suited up, including a career-high 11 points from sophomore guard Jackie Aldana.

“We’re looking to find six, seven, eight and nine,” Drake said. “We know who the starters are. But you need to have people that can come in. Some people are going to get in foul trouble and you’re only as good as who your sub is. That’s what we’re trying to find right now and it seems to be changing every game.”

Griffin-McNair was named the tournament’s most valuable player while Batarse and Hernandez were named to the all-tournament team.

John Glenn was also in the tournament and split its four games, defeating Gabrielino 41-25 on Nov. 26 and Pioneer 41-38 two days later while losing to Alhambra 48-30 on Nov. 27 and to Gabrielino 49-29 last Thursday.

“It’s definitely the beginning of the season,” said Glenn head coach Linda Parra. “There were lots of inexperienced mistakes. They’re not seeing the whole side of the floor that exists.”

In the second game with Gabrielino, the Lady Eagles had a 12-4 first quarter lead but went through a field goal drought of 10:46 in the first half. Still, they led at the half 19-17 with junior Myra Gomez scoring eight points. Then in the second half, Glenn went 6:53 without a field goal to turn a 29-21 lead into a 37-34 Gabrielino advantage.

“I think our defense was the defining moment,” Parra said. “We have many breakdowns on defense. Even if we couldn’t make a shot, if we can play solid defense, the game would still be in control.”

Senior Angie Console led the Lady Eagles with 15 points, the highest total from any Glenn player in the tournament. Gomez added 11 points. Gomez also scored 18 in the first meeting with Gabrielino and 16 more against Pioneer. Like Norwalk, Glenn couldn’t get much scoring from its bench as only seven points were recorded by the non-starters.

“There are moments where they get it,” Parra said. “And then it gets away from them. You can see they’re trying to do what I’m telling them to do. But there are so many errors in between those positives.”

Glenn and Norwalk began action in its annual shared tournament this past Wednesday with Glenn playing Whittier and Norwalk matching up with its own junior varsity team as a pair of teams dropped out but only one new team was added late.

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