36TH ANNUAL VALLEY CHRISTIAN GIRLS VARSITY TOURNAMENT
By Loren Kopff
As has been the case all season long, the Whitney girls basketball team rode the sharp shooting of Rachel Nagel. The junior scored 34 points for the second straight game and led her team to a 52-38 victory over Mayfair last Saturday afternoon in the third place game of the Valley Christian Tournament.
Nagel scored eight of her team’s 14 points in the fourth quarter as the Wildcats went on a 14-0 run to begin the fourth quarter. Mayfair’s lone basket in the final stanza came with 8.2 seconds left in the game.
“We drove to the basket more and created more open shots by drawing in the defense and dishing it out or passing it in for the lay-ups,” Nagel said.
“They’re playing better as a team,” said Whitney first-year head coach Jeff Day. “The only thing that’s different is they’re starting to get it; buying in a little bit to what I’m trying to do. The best practices we’ve had have been the games we’ve played.”
After Mayfair took a brief 7-3 lead in the first quarter, Nagel scored on one of her nine steals to begin an 11-3 run over the final 3:03 of the first quarter. The lead would grow to 19-13 two minutes into the second quarter and eventually grow to seven points.
A steal from senior Linda Chun followed by a Nagel basket gave the Wildcats a 34-26 lead early in the third before the Monsoons scored six straight points. Aisha Baldwin’s basket with 56.1 seconds left in the third tied the game at 36-36. This was the second time this season Whitney (7-2) had defeated Mayfair. The first meeting was a 51-35 conquest as Nagel scored 29 points.
“We definitely played more like a team,” Nagel said of the rematch between the two teams. “We passed the ball better and we got a lot of steals that turned into offensive points.”
Nagel, who scored 126 points and grabbed 45 rebounds in the tournament, was named to the All-Tournament team. Junior Alyssa Wakamiya added eight points and three steals while junior Allison Tran chipped in with seven points and five rebounds. Day is still looking for contributions from the rest of the team.
“Allison and Alyssa have played with [Nagel and junior Reyna Ta’amu] since the seventh grade,” Day said. “Where this might be their third year those girls have been together [in high school], this is really their fifth year together. Allison probably averages 29 minutes a game. She didn’t complain about being tired. Alyssa, had we had two all-tournament selections, might have been our second all-tournament selection. She’s going to be the important one for us because she can hit the three.”
Whitney opened the tournament with a 58-38 loss to eventual champion Culver City, then bounced back to defeat Valley Christian 49-30 and Bellflower 71-42.
“This was our last game for the [calendar] year,” Nagel said. “So, we really wanted to come up with a win. Without having one of our better players, we were glad that we were able to come up with a tough win.”
It was a much different story for the hosts as they went winless following a 51-19 setback to Palmdale last Saturday afternoon. It was V.C.’s eighth straight loss after an opening-season victory over Firebaugh.
“I think we’ve really been up and down,” said V.C. first-year head coach Ally Wade. “Our main thing right now is getting consistent effort every day, whether it’s practice or a game. We just have to work on our consistency. Also, I think this tournament opened our eyes and showed us where we are and what we need to work on. Hopefully we can take this as a learning experience.”
The Lady Crusaders began the tournament with a 52-35 loss to Bellflower as junior Amber Binford posted a career-high 16 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Sophomore Hailey Garcia added 11 points. Garcia would score 10 points and senior Taylor Dantuma would grab 12 boards on Dec. 12 against Whitney. In that game, Whitney led 34-18 at the half but the Lady Crusaders allowed just 15 points the rest of the way.
“We started defensive rebounding,” Wade said of the second half of that game. “In the first half we gave them too many second chance opportunities. We tried to shut down Rachel. She’s a great player and she’s obviously going to get hers but we tried to take her out of the equation as much as possible.”
Last Friday versus Culver City, Binford would score eight points and pull down 11 rebounds in a 66-16 loss. V.C. is still going through some growing pains as the team has seven sophomores, three seniors, two freshmen and one junior. The team hasn’t scored more than 41 points in any game and has been held to 30 points or less four times. Still, Wade is optimistic for the future years but is praising one of her seniors.
“We always talk about the intangibles and that’s what Taylor does,” Wade said. “She’s been one of our most consistent rebounders every game, not just because of her height but because she works hard every game and she does a really good job running the floor for us.”
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