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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
Something had to give when the Artesia High girls basketball team hosted struggling John Glenn High last Friday evening. Through the first 17 games of the season, Glenn had just a forfeit win against Torres High to claim while the Pioneers had lost 12 of their past 14 games.
Despite nine lead changes in the first half and neither team leading by more than three points, it was an 8-0 run over the final 1:49 of the first half that enabled Glenn to walk away with a 40-34 victory.
“It’s exhausting but exciting at the same time,” said John Glenn head coach Christina Hernandez. “We didn’t come up with any wins in the preseason, but we got a lot of experience and it’s everything we’re working towards. It feels like a great accomplishment. I know on paper it’s one win. But for these girls and my young kids, it’s a lot more than that.”
Glenn (2-16 overall, 1-3 in the Suburban League) did not take its first lead until the 1:34 mark of the first quarter when sophomore Savannah Madrid scored off a pass from sophomore Kaylin Meno. The lead stretched to 12-9 in the opening minutes of the second quarter after a Meno steal and basket.
But the Pioneers (4-15, 0-4) went on an 8-2 run following a basket from senior Zharia Simmons and with 2:15 left in the half, the hosts were up 17-14. From that point on, Artesia missed its last five shots of the half while Glenn went on that aforementioned 8-0 run. Both teams wouldn’t shoot particularly well from the field in the second half, but one area where the Lady Eagles clearly dominated was on the glass. Glenn grabbed 30 rebounds in the second half and finished with 55 boards. Senior Natalie Cardenas, who had a quiet second quarter after getting five rebounds in the first quarter, led everyone with 15 rebounds, seven coming on the offensive end. Madrid and sophomore Dalilah Mendoza each added 13 rebounds while Simmons had 11 of her team’s 35 boards.
“That’s one of the statistics that I’ve been telling the girls that it doesn’t matter for us from the very beginning,” Hernandez said. “Are we boxing out? Are we getting opportunities to rebound? While our shooting percentage was low, we have to have the other side of the boards. We have to be able to get those rebounds to even have a chance.”
Glenn opened up an eight-point lead almost two minutes into the fourth quarter after senior Savanna Aguilar scored the second of her consecutive baskets within a 19 second span. The Lady Eagles would have two more eight-point leads while Artesia was unable to get to within four points the rest of the way.
“I told the girls and I’ve been telling them it really comes down to who wants it more,” Hernandez said. “They really wanted today’s win and it didn’t matter which lineup was out there even though some had more success than others. Everybody was on the same page.”
Simmons, as she has done virtually all season long, led Artesia with 15 points while sophomore Riley Woolf added seven points. For Glenn, which still hasn’t had all three of its returning players-Cardenas and juniors Saurianna Harrison and Vanessa Rouse-in the lineup on a consistent basis all season long, was led by Aguilar’s career-high 17 points. Madrid and Cardenas added nine and seven points respectively. But it’s been the job performed by sophomores who have picked up the slack in the absence of the returning players.
“Because we got Savannah so late in the preseason, we told her from the very beginning, ‘you’re going to have to continually take shots until you get into a rhythm again’,” Hernandez said. “She’s such an offensive-oriented player. She wants to score and as long as she wants to score, we’re going to keep allowing her those opportunities.”
Something also had to give when the Artesia boys faced John Glenn as both teams were looking to escape last place in the Suburban League. In addition, the Eagles were seeking their first win of the season.
This one was over before the end of the first quarter as Artesia head coach Ray Walker saw his team scored the first 10 points of the game and was never challenged in a 64-34 victory. Artesia snapped a brief three-game losing streak and improved to 8-9 overall, 1-3 in league action. However, the Pioneers had lost to Mayfair High by 10 points and Bellflower High by 12 points in their first two league games.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” Walker said. “We actually played well in the first two games in league. We didn’t come out with wins, but we competed and played pretty hard. We’re young; it’s expected to have some ups and downs. It’s been hard. Our league is going to be tough for us but we keep fighting.”
Artesia freshman Heder Gladden set the tone early with his 10 points on just four attempts from the field. Already with a pair of three-pointers to his name, Gladden ended the quarter with another long shot, and was fouled in the process in which he converted the subsequent free throw. After the opening quarter, the Pioneers were off and running with a 19-6 lead.
Gladden would add another three-pointer in the third quarter to finish the game with a game-high 14 points. It’s his third straight game of at least 13 points and already he is proving that he could be a force in Artesia’s offense for the next three years. Gladden has scored in double figures in 10 games and has been held without a point just once.
“He plays football, so we didn’t see a lot of him until football season ended,” Walker said. “He’s really picked up things right away. And he’s been really talented, so he’s going to be very good [in the future]. He’s very coachable and works his tail off and well respected by our players.”
If Glenn (0-16, 0-4) had any thoughts of putting a dent in Artesia’s lead, it was immediately dismissed because Artesia began the second quarter scoring the first 16 points with the long shots continuing to fall, this time coming from seniors Isaiah Harris and Martin Villeses and junior Alex Linao.
Glenn would not score its third field goal of the game until 3:39 remained in the half. That was a result of a steal from junior Lucas Aguirre who fed the ball to senior Nathan Lopez. The Eagles were three of 22 from the field in the half while Artesia was 12 of 29 and already had grabbed 28 rebounds.
“We emphasize to come out strong and be ready to play and do a good job from the beginning,” Walker said. “No one wants a bad start. We got everyone in there and they all really contributed.
We had some issues sometimes with sharing the basketball and we wanted to make sure we [shared] today.”
Villeses added 11 points while junior Devion Smith pulled down 11 rebounds and junior Rian Hughing another nine boards, all coming before halftime. Junior Cruz Gomez paced the Eagles with eight points and four steals while Lopez added seven points. Glenn shot a dismal 20 percent from the field and had 19 rebounds.
Both Artesia teams will visit Norwalk High today and host Bellflower on Wednesday to begin the second round of league play while both Glenn teams visit La Mirada High today.
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