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Norwalk hoopsters pick up important victories, sweep John Glenn

By Loren Kopff

With two weeks left in the regular season, every game is important for playoff positioning and such was the case when the Norwalk boys basketball team hosted John Glenn this past Monday night. The Lancers were hoping to stay within an arms length of Artesia for fourth place and the final automatic playoff berth out of the Suburban League.
The Lancers, known for blowing leads late in the game several times this season, nearly did the same against their cross town city rivals. But instead, they got a big basket from senior Alex Vidana late in the game and Norwalk escaped with a 53-49 win.
Norwalk, which has won two of its past three games, improved to 9-15 overall and 3-6 in the league. The Lancers also avenged a 48-47 loss to Eagles to open up the league schedule.
“I told my team at halftime, ‘we’re choking, we’re panicking, we’re not making them panic’,” said Norwalk head coach Jim Webster. “We had plenty of inside shots but we were just throwing the ball around.”
Up by one and with the shot clock winding down to one second, Vidana launched a three-pointer from the left wing with 13 seconds left to give Norwalk a 51-47 lead. Glenn junior Daniel Morales would score on an offensive rebound with two seconds left but senior Rashaad Penny iced the game with two free throws.
Norwalk held the lead for all but 18 seconds of the first half and led by as many as eight points (twice). However, the Eagles had the numbers on the glass with 19 rebounds in the first half to 14 from the Lancers. Both teams connected on eight field goals in the half, but the Lancers attempted 14 more shots and couldn’t take more of an advantage of Glenn’s 18 turnovers.
“That’s how bad we are,” Webster admitted. “That’s pretty much how bad we are. [Glenn] had the hustle and the effort on loose balls and that’s why they out-rebounded us.”
Glenn (7-16, 1-8) would chip away at the Norwalk lead in the third quarter and took its first lead at the 3:08 mark of the third quarter on senior Ardale Encabo’s basket. That was followed by a three-pointer from senior Suni Bedi. But Norwalk rallied and eventually took a three-point lead in the opening minutes of the final stanza before relinquishing it again.
With 3:36 left in the game, senior Erich Webb scored after getting an offensive board to put Glenn up 45-44. About a half a minute later, senior Antonio Lucero put the Eagles up by three before a steal and basket from Penny began Norwalk’s final push. Norwalk took the lead for good at the 1:53 mark when Vidana scored on an off-balance shot.
“We continue to get good shots and miss them,” Webster said. “And against a 3-2 zone, if you’re not going to hit some three’s from the corners or at the high post where we had those shots…and we’re not hustling on defense.”
Bedi led the Eagles with 13 points while Webb added a dozen more along with 10 rebounds. Lucero chipped in with eight points and five boards. Norwalk was led by Penny (17 points, 12 rebounds and five steals) while sophomore Omar Tinoco scored a career-high 10 points, five rebounds and two assists. Norwalk hosted La Mirada this past Wednesday one full game behind Artesia for fourth place. Artesia visited John Glenn this past Wednesday.
“We’re going to need [Artesia] to lose another game besides the ones they should lose because we lost to Glenn [in the first round],” Webster said. “We’re going to be a game behind if they do what we do. But we pretty much locked up fifth place with this win. [Fourth place] will come down to the last game of the season and if we can get in that position, then we’ll play hard for it. But maybe we can beat Cerritos and put us in a position to really get fourth.”
Prior to the game, the Norwalk girls, still looking for consistency throughout an entire 32-minute game, struggled early against last place Glenn. In fact, Glenn had an 11-8 lead late in the opening quarter and still had a three-point lead when sophomore Savanna Aguilar opened the second quarter with a bucket.
But the Lady Lancers scored the next 13 points of the stanza and went on to a 47-30 win. Norwalk snapped a three-game losing streak, all by a combined 12 points, and improved to 8-12 overall, 3-6 in league.
“I think it was just the careless passing and our decision making and our ability to box-out,” said Norwalk first-year head coach Emily Osongco of the first quarter. “I think our girls are trying to out-jump someone when…Glenn definitely has height over us. But at the same time, in the second quarter, they got focused and did what we needed them to do.”
After Norwalk had an 8-4 lead, the Lady Eagles (3-20, 0-9) scored seven straight points. But with 6:05 left in the half, a three-pointer from junior Jackie Aldana put the hosts in front for good at 14-13.
Both teams would pretty much trade baskets in the third quarter but the key stat of the second half was in the rebounding department. After halftime, Norwalk grabbed 11 offensive rebounds and nine on the defensive end while Glenn, which had 18 rebounds in the first half, was limited to 10 in the second half.
“I don’t know whether it’s their mindset of how to come out,” Osongso said. “But at the same time I know this team is definitely learning. Our goal is for them to play consistent. They have to understand it starts from the beginning. All of these games have been within reach, even for first place Mayfair. For us to lose by three [to Mayfair], it doesn’t make sense to us.”
Aguilar led the Lady Eagles with 11 points and nine rebounds while senior Myra Gomez had eight points and nine boards and senior Mayra Ramirez added seven points, three rebounds and six steals. Junior J’Nae Harrison quietly led Norwalk with a career-high 17 points while Aldana added 11 points and four steals. Junior Monica Pineda also had 10 rebounds, three steals and two assists.
“Monica has been in a slump where she has recognized it,” Osongco said. “Our goal is to help her overcome that. She’s harder on herself and I think she’s put that pressure on herself. Monica is definitely a very interesting and exciting player that I’m looking forward to see mature and make better decisions.”
Both Norwalk teams, who are off tonight will end the regular season, at Cerritos on Tuesday and home against Artesia on Thursday. The Norwalk girls were a game and a half behind fourth place La Mirada entering this past Wednesday. Both Glenn teams will visit Bellflower tonight and host La Mirada on Tuesday to wrap up the regular season.