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SUBURBAN LEAGUE BASKETBALL: Norwalk hoopsters pick up much needed wins, ease past John Glenn

By Loren Kopff

 

The two Norwalk varsity basketball teams found relief when they hosted John Glenn last Friday to conclude the first round of Suburban League action. The boys ended the first loop on a two-game winning streak and kept themselves within a game of fourth place while the girls remained in third place and stayed alive in the hunt for a league title.

The Lady Lancers never trailed against the Lady Eagles and forced their cross-town rivals to turn the ball over 39 times. Norwalk led 23-12 at halftime but missed 18 shots from the field. Still, the hosts got an early strong performance from senior J’Nae Harrison, who was four of six from the field in the first half. In addition, the team grabbed 14 rebounds before the break.

“We were just doing the basics,” said Norwalk head coach Emily Osongco. “That’s what we had addressed. Again, we hurt ourselves and that’s why we didn’t…there were too many missed buckets and free throws. We did what we did because they just seemed so off, even though we had shoot around. Again, it’s just been a while, maybe a little too long since we played.”

If there was any doubt that Glenn (6-15 overall, 1-5 in league) would stay in the game, that was dashed in the third quarter when Norwalk reeled off 15 straight points with 11 coming directly off of turnovers. Glenn ended a 7:56 scoreless drought when junior Sarah Perea scored on an offensive putback. But the damage was already done as Norwalk was rolling along with a 38-14 lead.

Harrison led everyone with 17 points and was eight of 11 from the field while senior India Conner, who was making her first league start, added 10 points, seven steals and six rebounds. It’s the second time this season she has reached 10 points.

But Conner isn’t the only player flying under the radar on a team with nine seniors. Junior Danielle Tate came off the bench to score eight points, have three steals and just as many rebounds. Then there is sophomore Melanie Arias, who had five rebounds, four coming on the offensive end. As a team, the Lady Lancers grabbed 32 rebounds to Glenn’s 23 and had 19 steals.

“That was what I want to believe is one of our strengths,” Osongco said of her bench players. “A lot of teams might view [Harrison] as one player to stop for Norwalk. But I really do believe we have some other players who can definitely step up when needed. Obviously, [Conner] has raw talent and is very athletic.”

Norwalk (11-9, 4-2), which has been to the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section playoffs seven straight seasons, already has one more win than all of last season. But a lot will be said by the end of tonight when Norwalk hosts Cerritos, just two days after entertaining Mayfair. Both of those teams are ahead of Norwalk in the standings and gave the Lady Lancers their two league setbacks.

“The two losses that we do have were to two good teams,” Osongco said. “But at the same time, we competed. I can’t be upset with that. I’m very proud of their effort. I’ve actually been telling the girls I’m excited for the second round. We have nothing to lose. We finally get to play [the tougher teams] at home. This is where they should shine.”

Cerritos won the first meeting 54-38 on Jan. 9 but had a four-point lead going into the fourth quarter and has won the last three meetings against Norwalk after the Lady Lancers had won the previous four.

“It’s going to take everything,” Osongco said. “The fact that we stayed with them for the first half…again, we have to do every single little thing.

“I want to say it’s their swarming defense,” Osongco added as far as her concerns with facing Cerritos. “I think it’s exhausting after some point. I tip my hat to them in that sense. That’s one thing that I respect and I would always tell the kids to play defense and be proud of it. But that defense is something that we can handle. We just have to have the mindset.”

Sophomore Vanessa Rouse led Glenn with eight points and eight rebounds The 20 points were the fourth fewest scored this season and the Lady Eagles have not scored more than 35 points in any league game thus far.

Following the game, the Norwalk boys came out blazing with a 15-3 first quarter showing. But after the Eagles got to within eight points almost three minutes into the second quarter, the Lancers closed out the first half on an 18-7 run and went on to blow out their rivals 64-43.

“We’re still playing very bad basketball,” said Norwalk head coach Jim Webster. “But we’re in position, at least, to try to get fifth, if not fourth, with a victory over Artesia if everything stays the same. But we have a lot of room for improvement.”

Norwalk (7-13, 2-4) was dominant under the Glenn glass in the opening quarter, pulling down seven offensive rebounds. But the Lancers struggled to get more points than the 15 as they were true on six of 19 shots from the field. It got better in the second quarter when Norwalk shot 50 percent.

“We had so many steals and missed opportunities,” Webster said. “We could have been up a lot more in that second quarter. That’s something we need to work on. We don’t normally get that many steals, so I know it wasn’t something we’re used to. But in a game like this, if you can get them, you should put them in and score.”

Pacing Norwalk in the first half was sophomore Jordan Volpei, who was six of nine from the field and scored 17 of his career-high 19 points before halftime. In addition, Volpei, who was coming off a 17-point performance the previous week against Bellflower, added eight rebounds and was four of six from the free throw line.

“He’s a good offensive player, and he can shoot,” Webster said. “He should have taken advantage of the post more today inside. But we’ve been waiting for this and I hope he’s still able to produce next week when we really need it.”

Also having great games for Norwalk were juniors Keno Valdenor (14 points, eight rebounds, three steals) and Rudy Tellez (11 points). Both players came off the bench as Webster is still trying to find a consistent starting lineup. Due to injuries and players missing practice, Webster has had to use a different starting lineup in nearly every league game.

Glenn (1-19, 0-6) never got closer than 20 points in the second half and had one mini run of six straight points. The lone bright spot for the Eagles was senior Daniel Morales, who recorded a career-high 29 points, going nine of 17 from the field and 11 of 18 from the charity stripe. Sophomore Cruz Gomez added nine points off the bench while senior Javier Avalos had 10 of the team’s 24 rebounds.

Both Glenn teams will host Artesia today before travelling to La Mirada on Monday and to Mayfair on Wednesday. As for the Lancers, they will visit Artesia on Monday before taking Wednesday off. While the Norwalk boys squad knows it can always apply for an at-large spot in the playoffs if it doesn’t finish among the top four in league, Webster is confident of getting an automatic berth.

“We’re going to take it game by game because we have to improve next week no matter who we play,” Webster said. “We play Mayfair and Cerritos and we could lose both but play really good. But that’s got to put us in position for the next week when we have Artesia, and then Bellflower and Glenn to finish out the season.”