_____________________________ ST. NORBERT CHURCH           RATES _______________________


Norwalk overmatched in third place game, Whitney captures consolation championship


By Loren Kopff

Through the first six games of the season, the Norwalk girls basketball team has barely been challenged. But following a 28-point loss to St. Paul last Friday night in a semifinal game of the annual Glenn/Norwalk Tournament, the Lady Lancers had a chance to make a statement against a quality team.
Throw that plan out the window as Perris, the 10th ranked team in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division II-AA poll, slammed Norwalk 65-29 in the third place game.
“[Assistant coach] Emily [Osongco] was saying they looked like a junior college team to us,” said Norwalk head coach Richard Drake. “If you just look at how physical they are, we looked like we had never touched weights. All the way down the line, it just showed in their assertiveness and their ability to play. Their shooting from the outside was also good.”
Norwalk enjoyed a few brief moments of success, scoring the game’s first basket and trailing by three points through nearly the first six minutes of the first quarter. That’s when the Panthers went on an 11-0 run and never looked back. Senior Cristina Batarse scored five points within the first 38 seconds of the second quarter to make it a 20-11 game. But Perris reeled off 16 straight points before senior Jazzlyn Gaxiola scored following an offensive rebound.
Gaxiola led the Lady Lancers with 15 points and grabbed five rebounds before fouling out with 5:06 left in the game. Against St. Paul, she scored a career-high 19 points and for the time being, will have to be the focal point of Norwalk’s offense. Senior Maiya Griffin-McNair went down with a possible tear in her right Achilles heel against St. Paul. It’s not yet clear when she’ll be able play. Norwalk’s next game is Thursday when it visits Downey.
“We’re trying to find a new identity now,” Drake said. “Everything went through Maiya but we don’t have Maiya right now and we don’t know how long she’s going to be out. So, right now, Jazzy had a nice game. Maybe our wins and maybe our season go through Jazzy now.”
Norwalk began the tournament with a 67-12 win over its junior varsity team as Gaxiola scored 16 points while senior Elizabeth Hernandez added a dozen points. Last Thursday, the Lady Lancers cruised by Bell Gardens 46-30 as Griffin-McNair led the way with 20 points.
Earlier last Saturday, Whitney wrapped up its third straight win in the tournament with a 61-52 win over Long Beach Cabrillo. The game wasn’t as close as the final score indicated as the Wildcats built a 20-point lead in the first quarter.
“We lost to a good team in the first day of the tournament,” said Whitney first-year head coach Jeff Day. “My goal was just to improve and play well throughout the tournament. It didn’t matter if it was first place or last place. I just wanted to get better.”
Junior Rachel Nagel scored 18 of the team’s 24 points in the opening quarter and ended the game with a tournament-high 39 points. However, the victory was bittersweet as the team lost junior Reyna Ta’amu the previous day to a concussion against John Glenn. Ta’amu scored 11 points in the first half against Glenn but before halftime, went down hard on the court. To compound the issue, Ta’amu was involved in a car accident on the way to the hospital. She would miss all four games of the Valley Christian Tournament which concludes Saturday. Ta’amu is the team’s second leading scorer and rebounder.
“She’s potentially 20 points a game and 15 rebounds a game every game,” Day said. “The girls stepped up Saturday without her. She’s a post player but she can put the ball on the floor and she can face the basket. She can do a lot of different things.”
Whitney was leading 36-17 at the half but stumbled in the third quarter, scoring only four points and letting the Jaguars get back to within nine points. Junior Alyssa Wakamiya scored nine points, all on three-pointers. Whitney fell to South Torrance 57-52 last Wednesday but bounced back to defeat St. Joseph 67-61 and Glenn 43-27 before the consolation championship. Nagel scored 123 points in the four games including 36 against South Torrance.
Co-host John Glenn had a chance to even its tournament record at 2-2 but squandered a 10-point lead to St. Matthias in the second quarter last Saturday and went through a shooting slump throughout most of the game in a 40-34 loss. The Lady Eagles dropped to 3-5 on the season.
Glenn attempted five field goals in the second quarter, missing on all of them, then missed 10 of its first 14 shots in the second half to leave head coach Linda Parra confused about the team’s shooting.
“I couldn’t tell you honestly, other than they go away from what they know works,” Parra said. “I don’t know if it’s not having a lot varsity playing experience that causes that.”
Glenn raced to an 11-1 lead nearly five minutes into the game after senior Jayme Leal scored on consecutive steals. Leal would finish the game with seven points, all in the first quarter. But after its 17-7 lead, Glenn would see the Victorians end the first half on a 10-2 run. The game would go back and forth throughout most of the second half with neither team leading by more than three points until the very end.
Senior Angie Console tied the game at 33-33 with 2:26 remaining and after Kim Guevara hit a pair of free throws 22 seconds later, Glenn would only get one free throw from Console, which didn’t come until there were 57 seconds left to play. Console led the Lady Eagles with 13 points.
“I knew it was going to be close because I know we’re not a great offensive team,” Parra said. “But we played horrible defense. We fouled way too much and we turned the ball over too many times. But the shooting was horrific. Not good stats to win a game, no matter who you’re playing.”
Glenn began the tournament with a 56-21 loss to Whittier but came back to knock off Sotomayer 42-22 behind a career-high 12 points from junior Dominique Gomez. Last Friday, Glenn fell to Whitney 43-27 as Console scored 11 points. Glenn will host Pioneer on Monday and Dominguez on Thursday.
“I saw good things; don’t get me wrong,” Parra said. “I thought we played some teams pretty tough. Today’s loss was very frustrating.”