GAHR GIRLS VARSITY WINTER CLASSIC
By Loren Kopff
Heading into last Saturday night’s championship game of its own tournament, the Gahr girls basketball team was averaging 60.5 points a game, but ran into a brick wall in J.W. North. The Huskies, who had outscored their first three tournament opponents by 140 points, rolled past Gahr 73-39 to snap the host’s six-game winning streak.
It was the second straight season and the fourth time since 2000 the Gahr girls basketball team was playing for a championship in its own tournament. But unlike the previous three times, this one was a runaway very early. J.W. North scored eight straight points in the first quarter after Gahr had taken a 4-0 lead and never looked back. By the end of the first quarter, the Huskies had led 17-11, then began the second quarter on a 10-0 run.
“They cut us up right from the beginning,” said Gahr head coach Al Dorogusker. “They took us first on our press. They took us on our fast break. We really weren’t ready for that. They took us pretty hard.”
J.W. North’s Priscilla Brooks owned the first quarter by scoring eight points and added two more baskets in the second quarter. Kamille Diaz, the tournament’s most valuable player, scored 14 of her 27 points in the second quarter including a pair of three-pointers. Meanwhile, the Gladiators were unable to get much going from their offense as they scored 20 points in the first half with senior guard Jewelyn Sawyer getting 10 points. In fact, only three Gahr starters scored in the game and four overall.
“I thought the first five minutes of the game gave them all the confidence,” Dorogusker said. “Shooting and running is a matter of confidence. If somebody stops you, then there’s hesitancy and those shots don’t come as easy and those passes don’t come as easy. We didn’t give them any of the hesitancy. We allowed them to run and to get out.”
J.W. North built a 17-point lead nearly midway through the second quarter and owned a 41-20 halftime lead. Gahr (9-4) was unable to get its deficit under 21 points in the second half with the Huskies going on runs of 8-2 in the third quarter and 11-0 to end the game. To add insult to injury, the Huskies had 19 steals, seven coming from all-tournament representative Simone De Coud. When it was all said and done, Brooks had led everyone with 29 points and 10 rebounds while Diaz added 27 points with four three-pointers.
“It’s what happened to us in the Brea [Olinda] Tournament,” Dorogusker said of the turnovers. “I thought we were past that. Perhaps we haven’t been challenged enough in the past eight games and we played against teams that weren’t as strong. This is a well-coached and very strong team.”
Sawyer, who was named to the all-tournament team, led Gahr with 17 points and 17 rebounds while junior forward Chidera Agu added 11 points and nine rebounds. Junior guard Ra’vyn Bowser was also named to the all-tournament team after scoring 66 points in the tournament.
Gahr got to the championship game with victories over LACES (80-25) on Dec. 26, View Park (73-45) on Dec. 27 and Centennial (68-49) last Friday. Gahr will host Centennial again on Saturday before opening San Gabriel Valley League play on Wednesday against Paramount.
Elsewhere in the tournament, Cerritos bounced back from a 54-point loss to J.W. North to win three straight games capped off by a 54-46 win over Long Beach Jordan last Saturday afternoon. It was the second time in three days that the Lady Dons had defeated the Panthers.
“This was a great, great tournament,” said Cerritos first-year head coach Arial Adams. “We started really rocky but we won the last three games and I think the biggest thing for us is the way we were able to adjust against the type of teams we were playing.”
Cerritos (6-6) scored the final five points of the first quarter and the first basket of the second quarter to hold a 14-5 lead. But Jordan battled back and took a 21-20 late in the second quarter. The Lady Dons received great bench help in the first half, outscoring their own starters 20-9 as they held a slim three-point lead at the break.
But after Tamirah Brewer scored the first basket of the third quarter, Cerritos went on a 13-0 run. First, junior guard Deshields Fajardo hit a three-pointer. That was followed by perimeter shots from sophomore guards Alyssa Movchan and Taylor Hirata. All three baskets came in a span of 1:12.
Jordan responded with a 7-0 run that lasted in the early moments of the fourth quarter. However, Movchan owned the final stanza, scoring 10 of her team-high 18 points in the final 5:46 of the game including seven straight points. Two of those baskets came off of steals from junior guard Stacey Suzuki who dished off two of her four assists to Movchan.
Despite the win, it was a far cry from the first meeting on Dec. 27 when the Lady Dons easily won 66-42. In that game, 10 different players scored for the Lady Dons, led by Fajardo’s 12 points. Last Saturday, only three starters scored and Hirata came off the bench to tie her career-high of 14 points.
“He adjusted his press breaks so we had to adjust our press, which normally we don’t have to,” Adams said of Jordan head coach Basil Woodruff. “Normally our press is our bread and butter and when that’s not effective, then we struggle.”
Cerritos, with a core group of returning players, has had an up and down preseason, alternating wins and losses through its first six games before going on a three-game losing streak. Cerritos opened up Suburban League action this past Wednesday at Norwalk and will host La Mirada today and Artesia on Wednesday.
“We’re still a young team and this is what I’ve been telling them about the Suburban League,” Adams said. “We’re not going to be blowing teams out by 10 or 15 points. They are going to be close games. We have to learn how to hold a lead; we haven’t learned it yet. That’s just the bottom line.”
Finally, La Mirada also went 3-1 in the tournament, falling to University 58-37 on Dec. 26 before coming back to defeat LACES 44-37, Jordan 48-43 and LACES again 41-39 in consecutive days.
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