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John Glenn boys hold off Norwalk in Suburban League opener

By Loren Kopff

The John Glenn boys basketball team did something this past Wednesday night that it had done only twice in at least the previous 17 seasons. The Eagles opened up Suburban League action with a victory, and in dramatic fashion against their biggest rival of all-time.

Glenn nipped city rival Norwalk 48-47 for a rare league-opening victory. Other than edging Norwalk by three points in the 2012 league opener, the last time it had defeated the Lancers, Glenn had never opened the league with a victory in at least 17 seasons, until senior Alex Vidana’s desperation three-pointer fell short with two seconds left, preserving Glenn’s most emotional win of the season.

“Wow, this was monumental,” said Glenn head coach Wesley Phillips. “Our guys really wanted it. We haven’t had a good past month or so with our [preseason] tournaments but they wanted this. It was a toss-up.”

The Eagles (7-8 overall, 1-0 in league) trailed 41-34, their largest deficit of the game, with 4:02 left in the game before they made their comeback. Following two free throws each from junior Daniel Morales and senior Suni Bedi, senior Erich Webb scored on consecutive offensive rebounds to put his team in front 42-41 with 1:50 remaining. It was the first time Glenn had led since late in the first half.

Norwalk would take a 47-45 lead with 41 seconds left on a three-pointer from sophomore David Suarez. But Glenn senior Ardale Encabo returned the favor 12 seconds later for a game-winning three-pointer.

“They were panicking and I just told them to relax,” Phillips said of the second half. “We had a lot of game left.”

Both teams played a tight, tentative first half that featured five ties, five lead changes and only four fouls called, all on Glenn. In fact, the two combatants combined for just 10 points in the second quarter. When the first half had concluded with the score tied 18-18, Glenn was eight of 22 from the field while the Lancers attempted two more shots from the field.

“We were both tight and it was first game [in league] jitters,” Phillips said. “That’s what our guys said at halftime.”

Norwalk (6-10, 0-1) seemed to have the momentum in the third quarter as senior David Suarez hit a three-pointer just 13 seconds in and a perimeter shot from sophomore Keno Valdenor nearly midway through the stanza put Norwalk up 30-22. But the Eagles made the first of their two second half rallies towards the end of the third quarter and early in the fourth, outscoring Norwalk 9-1 in a span of 2:36.

Bedi, who scored nine points in the first quarter, led everyone with 17 points and has reached double figures in six straight games while Encabo added 10 points.

“We expect [Suni] to lead because he’s our best shooter,” Phillips said. “He’s big for us. When things are going well for him, they’re going well for us.”

Glenn, which has had more success against Norwalk over the past 17 seasons than any other league opponent with nine victories, including six at home, visits Cerritos tonight before hosting league favorite Mayfair on Monday and going to La Mirada on Wednesday. The seven wins thus far for the Eagles are the most since winning 10 games in the 2006-2007 season.

“It can and it will catapult us into better things,” Phillips said of the win. “Our guys really want it this year. Most of them are seniors and they really want it.”

Norwalk was paced by Suarez, who scored a career-high 14 points, and senior Rashaad Penny, who added 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Norwalk hosts Mayfair tonight, Bellflower on Monday and Cerritos on Wednesday.

Preceding the game, the Norwalk girls evened their record for the first time this season with a 41-28 victory. The Lady Lancers, who lost their first four games of the season, won their third straight game and sixth in the past eight games to improve to 6-6 overall, 1-0 in league.

Norwalk owned a 13-4 advantage after the first quarter on the strength of junior J’Nae Harrison’s seven points and four more from junior Jackie Aldana. But Glenn went on an 11-2 run over the first three minutes of the second quarter before the visitors ran away. Norwalk reeled off the final eight points of the half, then scored the first 10 points of the third quarter to lead 33-15. The Lady Eagles (3-12, 0-1) were held scoreless for nearly 11 minutes during that Norwalk scoring spree. Harrison led Norwalk with 13 points, five rebounds and five steals while Aldana added 10 points, six boards and three steals. Glenn was led by senior Myra Gomez, who came off the bench to score 16 points, grab eight rebounds, block four shots and pick up three steals. No other Glenn player had more than four points.

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