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RANCHO ALAMITOS TOURNAMENT Artesia, Norwalk boys basketball teams falter in second half of semifinal games

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

GARDEN GROVE-Norwalk High boys basketball head coach Brent Campanelli was as confident about his team advancing to the championship game of the Rancho Alamitos Tournament as he would be in any other game.Afterall, the Lancers had won five of six games entering their semifinal contest with Garden Grove High last Friday night.

But in a span of 6:37 that began late in the first quarter, Garden Grove connected on nine straight field goals and went on a 21-9 run during that span before coasting to a 71-49 win. Norwalk led for most of the opening quarter, but when Jerry Martinez hit a pair of free throws with 1:59 left in the stanza, the Argonauts led 9-8 and never trailed the remainder of the game.

“I knew what we were getting ourselves into, and we’ve had a little bit of adversity with some illnesses and injuries and outside factors that this time of season everyone is dealing with,” Campanelli said. “We couldn’t overcome it today. That’s a good team.”

Garden Grove missed six field goals in the first quarter and junior Pablo Juarez had three rebounds off those misses along with three more on the offensive end. In fact, the Lancers would collect 10 rebounds in the opening quarter but get 15 more over the next three quarters.

Meanwhile, Garden Grove simply could not miss as Sebastian Castro hit three straight baskets, including a three-pointer, to put his team up 20-11 with 5:43 left in the first half. And when Andres Ortega was true on a perimeter shot with 2:54 left in the half, the lead had ballooned to 14 points before the Lancers went on a brief 7-0 run, their best scoring spree of the game.

“It didn’t feel like they missed, but those kids are good and they’re really well-coached,” Campanelli said of Garden Grove. “They probably had a bad taste in their mouth; we got them in the fall league and their best player didn’t play. So, I’m sure there was a little bit of a revenge factor.”

As good as Garden Grove’s shooting was in the second quarter, it was the opposite for Norwalk in the early portions of the third quarter when the Lancers missed their first six field goals and didn’t connect on one until junior Christopher Herrera scored off a steal from senior Andrew Beeson with 2:55 remaining in the stanza. By now, it was 43-28 and it would only get worse as Garden Grove would go on a 16-6 run to lead by a game-high 25 points with 5:55 left in the game.

I don’t know if it was defense,” Campanelli said. “I think we turned the ball over a lot and it gave them some easy looks. And then we lost a couple of guys. We were trying to front so much down low because we’re so small. It’s just tough; those guys know how to use their bodies and they make good passes. The discipline on that side showed and they were able to get easy looks.”

The Lancers would make the score more respectable in the fourth quarter when they went on a 13-4 run with Herrera scoring 10 of those points. He would lead the Lancers with 18 points on 50 percent shooting and four three-pointers. Three other players all had eight points apiece and Juarez led the team with eight rebounds. Garden Grove was paced by Martinez (23 points), Castro (22) and Ortega (17)

We’re not comfortable unless we’re down by eight, down by 10,” Campanelli chuckled. “I think that’s something we’ve been dealing with for a little while as we’ve been in this process. But, our guys don’t quit. They don’t know how; they know how to play hard and they kept trying to do their thing.”

Norwalk would lose the next night to former Suburban League rival Artesia High 55-54 in the third place game to fall to 10-9 as league play approaches. It’s the third time this season the Lancers have lost back to back games. Norwalk will host La Mirada High on Tuesday in the Suburban League opener for both teams.

We want to play our best; everybody at this time of the year wants to be playing their best right now,” Campanelli said. “Tonight, we didn’t show that, but I do believe that we are playing our best basketball. So, we’re excited to be getting into the Suburban League. It’s going to be a challenge. Our goal this whole season was to get to 15 wins, and we’re right on pace to do that.”

Following the game, Artesia was hoping to get to the championship game as well but had similar problems as Norwalk. After playing tight first quarter with Irvine High, the Pioneers had a terrible second quarter and eventually fell to the Vaqueros 50-32 to see its record dip to 9-8 at the time.

“We came out okay,” said Artesia head coach Ray Walker. “But we had trouble putting the ball in the basket today. That’s a big deal. At the end of the day, you can play really good defense, but basketball is an offensive game at times and we shot miserably today. This was probably our worst shooting game of the year.”

Artesia began the second quarter on consecutive steals and baskets from senior Heder Gladden and junior Princeton Hoang respectively to lead 12-11. After that, it was all Irvine, which went on a 10-0 run and never looked back. The Pioneers were seven of 30 from the field in the first half and trailed 25-14 at the break as five different players scored.

The Pioneers tried to get back in game by scoring three straight baskets in the first 1:09 of the second half. Senior Leroy Gladden had consecutive steals and baskets and Heder Gladden added a bucket as well. But that’s the closest the Pioneers would get as the Vaqueros opened a37-24 advantage before the end of the third quarter. Then in the fourth quarter, the Pioneers could only connect on one of 13 field goals and scored three points.

Heder Gladden led the Pioneers with 11 points while Leroy Gladden added eight points and five rebounds. The next night, Heder Gladden, who has missed a good chunk of the season because of his football obligations, then an injury, scored the winning points with 0.7 seconds left against Norwalk to lift the Pioneers to a 55-54 win. He would score a season-high 20 points against the Lancers.

The Pioneers (10-8) kicked off 605 League action on Jan. 3 against Oxford Academy and will host Whitney High on Saturday before visiting John Glenn High on Tuesday.

We’ve been banged up a lot, so we’ve yet to play a full game with the regular group,” Walker said. “We’re trying; I wish we were a little more fluid and plying better. We’re really not, yet, but we’re excited to start league and it’s going to be tough. We kick off with Oxford Academy and they’re a good basketball team. So, we have to really be ready to play.”

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