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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW: Valley Christian “kicks” top-seeded Jurupa Hills out of playoffs

 By Loren Kopff

 The game statistics heavily favored Jurupa Hills in its California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division VI second round boys soccer playoff game at Valley Christian. But the Crusaders simply shrugged that off, played a defensive-minded game and played the top seeded Spartans to a scoreless tie after 100 minutes of action this past Tuesday night at Crusader Field.

That’s when V.C. took over and outlasted the visitors from Fontana 4-3 in penalty kicks to notch its biggest win of the season. V.C. advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time since the 1999-2000 season and hosted sixth ranked Rialto on Feb. 27.

“Today’s performance was probably one of the best performances I’ve seen our boys play,” said V.C. first-round head coach Sean Toth. “Even with 10 men, we still shut them out. They really didn’t cause us any threat.”

Giovanni Soto scored the first penalty kick but senior forward Jonathan Ramos tied it after the first round when his shot couldn’t be hauled in by goalkeeper Saul Alcarez. Freshman goalkeeper Misha Marson then stopped the next two attempts from Ernesto Cruz and Andy Gonzalez while the Crusaders took advantage.

Freshman forward Clay D’Amico and junior forward Brian Cok put the Crusaders up 3-1 and one more stop would win the game. But Jorge Gomez found the upper right corner of the net and senior David Lutu’s attempt sailed above the upper right corner. Mariscal Francisco then tied the penalty kick session but sophomore Blake Christensen found just enough of a hole between Alcarez and the right post to seal the win.

V.C. couldn’t muster much on offense throughout the 80 minutes of regulation plus the overtime session. At the same time, the Spartans had several chances and took 17 shots on goal to six from V.C.

“We knew our strengths were set pieces-corners, long throws, free kicks-and we took them to our advantage,” Toth said. “We came real close [to scoring] but we came up short. We knew we weren’t going to get many chances against a team that knocks the ball around.”

The best chance for V.C. came in the 67th minute when a shot from Christensen barely missed the upper right corner of the net. Seven minutes into overtime, Marson came up a huge save on a Gonzalez shot. Then three minutes left in overtime, a free kick from Gomez just went to the upper left corner of the net. Marson would save four of the 17 shots.

“He’s got a bright future in front of him, going [Division I] college, I believe so, and beyond that,” Toth said. “He’s only been playing goalkeeper for a year and a half. And to come out with a performance like that and save two penalty kicks is unbelievable.”

The one down note for V.C. came in the 92nd minute when senior midfielder Joe Martinez was issued a red card for apparently kicking the shin of a Jurupa Hills player while going for the ball. Martinez would not play against Rialto. The Crusaders would be whistled 14 times while the Spartans committed 13 fouls.

In other boys soccer action, Artesia also played a scoreless tie against Valencia in a Division IV second round game but won 3-1 in penalty kicks to advance to the quarterfinals against third ranked Oak Hills. Artesia (15-7-6) advances to the quarterfinals for the third time in the past four seasons. Two seasons ago, Artesia lost to Oak Hills 2-1 in overtime in the quarterfinals.

GIRLS SOCCER

Valley Christian saw its season come to an end as 10th ranked Hemet came away with a 2-1 overtime win this past Wednesday in a Division V second round game. The Lady Crusaders (17-7-3), ranked seventh, got its lone goal from senior midfielder Janna Jensen in stoppage time of regulation.

BOYS BASKETBALL

Artesia stayed with 12th ranked Gladstone for the first half and even took a four-point lead to begin the second half in a Division III-A second round game last Friday night. But the Gladiators went on a 15-0 run in the third quarter and proceeded to knock the Pioneers out of the playoffs, 50-41. Artesia ends its season at 17-11.

“We didn’t play well at all,” said Artesia head coach Ray Walker. “We didn’t play very disciplined. We were very out of character today. The moment was too big for us, I think.”

The ninth ranked Pioneers had a 6-0 lead until Gladstone finally scored with 4:32 left in the first quarter. That started a 14-0 run but the hosts managed to tie the contest 20-20 at the half. A three-pointer from junior Akil Williams put Artesia up 24-20 nearly three minutes into the second half. That would be the last points Artesia would score until a Williams basket with 17.2 seconds remained in the stanza.

The Pioneers got to within four points with 4:05 left in the game. But the Gladiators concluded the contest on a 9-4 run. Gladstone was able to win the game with the downtown shots, connecting on nine of 20 three-pointers while Artesia was four of 20 from the same territory.

“We broke down on defense and a lot of their three’s they hit were off of second shots,” Walker said. “We didn’t rebound well tonight, not well enough to win.”

Senior Jon Campbell led Artesia with 12 points while senior Brandon Paris added 10 points. Junior Dontae Smith had 13 of Artesia’s 35 rebounds.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

For the third straight season, Whitney failed to get past the quarterfinals as the Lady Wildcats were edged by fourth ranked Rosary 49-48 in a Division IV-AA quarterfinal game. Fifth ranked Whitney concludes its remarkable season at 25-4 with all its losses coming by a combined 18 points. Senior Reyna Ta’amu led Whitney with 20 points while senior Rachel Nagel, who will be showcasing her talents at the University of California, Davis, added 10 points. The 25 wins are most in school history, eclipsing the 24-4 mark of two seasons ago.

SOFTBALL

The wait is finally over for the Cerritos and Gar softball programs. For the first time since Mar. 16, 2006, those two schools will meet in a doubleheader Monday at Gahr. The last time the two city schools faced each other, Cerritos rallied for three runs each in the fifth and sixth innings and edged Gahr 7-5 at the Cerritos Sports Complex. Ashton Hinds had a two-out, two-run triple in the top of the sixth, scoring Breanne Klemer and Corina Pendleton. Hinds then scored the insurance run on a single from Gracie Melendrez.

Before that game, Gahr had won three of the previous four meetings dating back to Apr. 7, 1998 when a second inning hit from Jennifer Markovitz plated Tiffany Brown for the game’s only run. On Apr. 28, 2001, Gahr slammed Cerritos 12-2 in a Thousand Oaks Tournament game as the Lady Dons committed nine errors. On Mar. 14, 2002, Cerritos swept a doubleheader at the Cerritos Sports Complex, winning the first game 2-1 as a fielder’s choice from Kera Hillstead scored Melana Woods in the bottom of the seventh. In the second game, the Lady Dons scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh as Kristen Hillstead’s two-run single tied the game and a hit from Woods brought in Hillstead.

The two schools didn’t play again until Mar. 8, 2005 when Gahr rallied for five runs in the bottom of the fifth and two more in the bottom of the sixth to edge the Lady Dons 7-6. Cerritos had a 6-0 lead after the first two innings before Roni Alvarado shut down the Lady Dons the rest of the way.