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2018 GLENN/NORWALK CITY CLASSIC Hamakawa’s hot hand helps Whitney win consolation championship, Norwalk grabs sixth place

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

The Whitney High girls basketball team had the easiest scouting report it could get on Paramount High as the two met for the consolation championship of the 21st annual Glenn/Norwalk City Classic last Saturday afternoon. The two would meet again this past Tuesday in a non-league contest at Paramount, but the first meeting had more at stake.

Behind a dominating second quarter performance from senior Christine Hamakawa, the Lady Wildcats outscored the Pirates by 22 points in the stanza and cruised to a 52-35 victory. Hamakawa, who scored a game-high 24 points, hit seven three-pointers in the second quarter as Whitney erased a 7-4 deficit with 70 seconds left in the first quarter to take a commanding 32-11 halftime lead.

I thought it was a great tournament,” said Whitney first-year head coach Rachel Nagel. “After the first game, we came up short and I didn’t feel we played the best game we could play. We still had three games left to play in the tournament, so it was an opportunity to play games back to back and get a lot of experience. I was glad to see that the girls played hard and were able to get out with those three last wins of the tournament.”

Hamakawa, who missed on both of her attempted shots in the opening quarter, hit three outside shots in a row to put her team up 17-7 midway through the second quarter. Following a basket from Vanessa Castaneda, Hamakawa hit four more three-pointers. The only other field goal Whitney would get in the stanza came from sophomore Kim Hosada, who completed a three-point play with just under two minutes left.

Hamakawa would begin the second half with her last perimeter shot before the Pirates scored six straight points. It was only the second time this season Hamakawa, who averaged close to 11 points last season, scored in double figures and just the third time a Whitney player has scored at least 20 points in a contest.Hamakawa, who was named to the All-Tournament Team, had been struggling most of the season, scoring five points or less four times, but whatever she ate last Saturday morning seemed to work.

“I’m not sure,” Nagel chuckled about what Hamakawa ate before the game. “She’s a great shooter as it is. So, it was nice we got her a few open looks. I thought our ball movement was great and she was just getting loose against the zone and then once she started to catch fire, it was like, ‘alright, just keep feeding her the ball’. I thought everyone did a good job of finding her and realizing that she caught fire.”

Junior Janelle Ho and senior Justine Wu each scored seven points while Hosada added five points. The 35 points yielded tied for the sixth fewest given up, and the third time in the past five games.

I think we stepped up our defensive effort [after the first quarter] and that helped lead to easier buckets for us,” Nagel said. “At first we were a little stagnant and kind of letting them operate. But once we increased the ball pressure, we were able to get some rebounds, a couple of steals here and there and that led to the offensive end of getting easier buckets.”

Earlier in the tournament, Whitney (9-3) fell to Montebello High 47-38 before bouncing back to easily defeat Compton Centennial High 63-35 last Thursday and John Glenn High 48-17 last Friday. Wu posted a game-high 20 points against Compton Centennial coming off the bench on eight of 10 shooting from the field and four for four from the free throw line. Senior Valaree Villegas scored 12 points and Ho added 10 points plus six rebounds and three steals. Against Glenn, Wu and sophomore Makenna Yokoyama each scored 10 points while Hosada added another eight points and grabbed eight rebounds off the bench.

“I think Justine is just a great energy player for us,” Nagel said. “I think she is a leader out there; she does a great job of getting to the basket, getting contact, getting to the free throw line. But even on the defensive end, she’s always hustling back and forth, stopping the ball, guarding one of the better players.”

Whitney, which knocked off Paramount 47-42 this past Tuesday, will visit La Serna High on Saturday before facing San Fernando High on Wednesday in pool play action of the Savanna Holiday Classic. The Lady Wildcats will also play Oakland-based McClymonds High on Thursday in the tournament.

Co-host Norwalk High went 2-2 in the tournament after falling to Fountain Valley High 47-32 last Saturday afternoon in the fifth place game. The Lady Lancers (4-4) never led in the game, falling behind 11-4 within the first five minutes of the game. They got within five points twice in the second quarter and again 32 seconds into the second half on a basket from sophomore Brianna Flores. After that, the Barons scored the next 11 points to put the game away.

Senior Priscilla Martinez led Norwalk with 12 points off the bench while Flores added 11 points. Senior Destiny Goodloe, who was named to the All-Tournament Team, added seven points and scored 43 points in the tournament. Norwalk also defeated Gahr High 55-28, lost to Santa Fe High 48-33 before defeating Mary Star of the Sea High 44-33. The Lady Lancers visited Paramount this past Wednesday and will host California High tonight before going to Fullerton High on Monday and hosting Glenn on Thursday.

Finishing in 11th place was Glenn, which knocked off Lawndale High 39-29 last Saturday morning in the tournament’s third of eight games for the day. The Lady Eagles were barely challenged as they led 10-2 after the opening quarter and 25-12 at the half.

“Today’s game is hard to judge because Lawndale was kind of depleted,” said Glenn head coach Ruben Guerrero. “They were down to four players, so it’s really hard to judge. But it was actually good experience for our younger players to get in there and get a lot of extra time. That really helped them.

“I think overall this tournament…we saw our deficiencies and we also saw what we’re good at,” he continued. “And we’re just trying to figure out a way of how to put that all together more consistent on a game to game basis.”

While Lawndale started with five players but finished with four, Glenn had eight of nine players score, led by seniors Denise Cardenas (nine points, five rebounds) and Berenice Santana (eight points, four rebounds), both of whom came off the bench. Sophomore Karina Flores grabbed 10 rebounds as all nine players had at least four rebounds. But Glenn shot 22 percent from the field, something Guerrero said the team needs to improve on.

“Some of those shots taken are ill-advised,” Guerrero said. “It’s one of those things that we’re trying to teach them shot selection and not every shot is a good shot. Sometimes they get it and sometimes they don’t.”

Glenn (5-6) also fell to Fountain Valley High 57-39 before getting past Edison High 40-32. Junior Dominique Harrison, who didn’t play against Lawndale, scored 13 points against Edison and 10 points against Whitney while sophomore Cynthia Almanzar, who had six rebounds against Lawndale, added 12 points against Edison.Almanzar was named to the All-Tournament Team.

Her play is still kind of spotty,” Guerrero said. “Even though she doesn’t play like a first-year varsity player, at times she looks like a first-year varsity player. The good thing about Cynthia is she’s played a lot of basketball prior to John Glenn; she’s been part of the basketball culture.”

Glenn will visit Santa Fe today before keeping the rivalry with Norwalk going despite both schools being in different leagues.

I think that’s always going to be a rivalry, whether I’m here or other players are here,” Guerrero said. “That’s just an ongoing deal. It’s something we always look forward to. It’s something the kids always look forward to and I think it’s something the city looks forward to.”

Finally, prior to Glenn’s game, Gahr got off to a slow start against Edison, which scored the first nine points of the game. Eventually, the Lady Gladiators fell to the Chargers 56-51 last Saturday to finish 1-3 in the tournament. The Lady Gladiators (3-6) crawled back to trail by two points with 3:56 left in the first half. But Edison went on a 29-12 run over the next 13 minutes.

Junior Clarissa Heredia led all players with 29 points, which was the second most out of all players from the 16 teams last Saturday. Junior De’Aja Newburn added 12 points and seven rebounds.  

Gahr also lost to Paramount 54-50 before blasting Robert F. Kennedy High 68-0 last Friday behind 25 points from Heredia, named to the All-Tournament Team, and 12 points from junior Kayla Miyake. Gahr will host El Dorado High on Wednesday.

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