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John Glenn’s long playoff drought is short-lived against third ranked La Canada

By Loren Kopff

 LA CANADA-It had been 14 long, grueling years since the John Glenn boys basketball program last advanced to the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section divisional playoffs. With nine seniors on this season’s team and a six-victory turnaround from last season, head coach Wesley Phillips was going to send his team to the playoffs, even if it meant getting an at-large berth.

Although the Eagles finished the regular season with seven wins, the most since the 2006-2007 campaign, and finished in last place in the Suburban League, the team was awarded a spot in the Division III-A playoffs where it was drubbed by third ranked La Canada 59-39 in the first round this past Wednesday night inside Hotchkin Family Gymnasium.

Glenn held its ground through the first 11 minutes of the game, trailing by three after the first quarter and by one with 5:36 left in the first half on a basket from senior Myles Ferguson. But the Spartans closed out the half on a 14-2 run to lead 28-15 at the break, then began the second half on a 10-2 run to really put the game out of reach.

“It’s typical of us to start out strong and hard,” Phillips said. “That’s just what we do. Somehow we can’t hold onto it. It’s disappointing. Once we get past that second quarter plateau, things start to fall apart.”

Throughout the game, the Eagles were clearly being dominated on the boards by La Canada’s size with all five starters standing anywhere from 6’0”-6’3”. As a result, the Eagles managed only three offensive rebounds in the game. Even on the defensive end, when the Spartans were attempting 26 three-point shots, it would be the hosts bringing in the majority of those offensive rebounds. Glenn finished with 30 rebounds for the game, nine from senior Erich Webb and five each from senior Ardale Encabo and junior Daniel Morales.

“We only have one guy over six feet and he got banged up,” Phillips said. “Our guys generally don’t crash [the boards] because they spend a lot of time watching [the other team]. It’s just the effort and energy they don’t commit to on the offensive boards.”

Senior Antonio Lucero led the Eagles with 11 points while senior Suni Bedi added eight more along with five steals and four rebounds. Glenn will graduate nine seniors from a squad of 11 with Morales being the only starter coming back next season. The other returning player will be junior Alan Solorzano. Still, for a struggling program that had won 18 games the past six seasons combined before this season and has finished in last place in the Suburban League six straight seasons, getting back to the playoffs with a senior-laden team was the top priority all season long.

“It was only special in the sense that the boys got here,” Phillips said of this season. “I expected us to get here. Even though we got here by the skin of our teeth, I expected us to play well enough to get here. It was up to them to leave it all on the floor and they did early.”

In other basketball playoff action, the Artesia boys enjoyed the long bus trip from Barstow this past Wednesday night as the Pioneers came away with a 56-53 win over the Aztecs. The seventh ranked Pioneers (17-10) will host 10th ranked Gladstone tonight in a Division III-A second round game.

Speaking of long road trips, Cerritos (14-12) travelled to Arroyo Grande on Feb. 20 in a Division II-A game that was to be played tonight. If the Dons, who finished third in the Suburban League, come away with a win, they will play either sixth ranked Tustin or Don Lugo on Tuesday.

“I knew we would be going pretty far,” said Cerritos head coach Jonathan Watanabe. “This is a big road trip. We haven’t had anything that compares to this.”

Gahr dropped a 78-77 decision to Palos Verdes at home this past Wednesday night in a Division III-AA first round game. The Gladiators, who got 23 points from senior Malachi Hoosein and 22 from junior Gregory Carlyle, end their season at 15-12. Gahr had won five straight games and six of their last seven.

Norwalk, which finished in fourth place in the Suburban League, travels to fourth ranked Colony tonight in a Division II-A first round game. The Lancers wrapped up the regular season at 10-13, their second losing season in the past three years but are going to the playoffs for the fifth time in the past six seasons.

Valley Christian won for just the third time in its past 12 games when the Crusaders knocked off host Muir 60-48 this past Wednesday night in a Division IV-AA first round game. Sophomores Stedmon Bryant and Vaj Rice scored 16 and 15 points respectively while freshman Johnny Johnson added a career-high 14 points. V.C. (11-16) will host fourth ranked Crespi tonight.

On the girls side, Cerritos hosts Dos Pueblos in a Division II-A first round game Saturday night. The Lady Dons (19-5) are ranked seventh in the division and finished in second place in the Suburban League.

“We’re No. 7 which I’m honestly surprised,” said Cerritos head coach Arial Adams. “That’s cool…No. 7 is pretty good. We should take care of business.”

Cerritos is led by junior Alyssa Movchan, who scored 283 points this season. But the Lady Dons, who have the best well-rounded team in the league, can get scoring from seniors Tori Mura (121 points) and Stacey Suzuki (147), junior Taylor Hirata (153) and

sophomore Tatiana Fominyam (222).

“I have to take a moment to look back at everything we’ve done so far,” Adams said. “My expectations were high and I know we were so close to being league champions. Overall, 19-5 is really good, especially with the group of girls that we have.”

Also in Division II-A action, Norwalk will travel to fourth ranked North Torrance on Saturday, a team that eliminated Cerritos from the playoffs last season. The Lady Lancers went 10-13 in the regular season and were tied for fourth place in the Suburban League.

Valley Christian, which won 10 more games than it did last season, travelled to Victorville to face University Prep on Feb. 20 in a Division IV-A first round game. The Lady Crusaders (11-15) tied for second place in the Olympic League but received an at-large bid. Should V.C. win, it will play the winner of the top-ranked Brentwood/La Reina game.

Also on Feb. 20, Academy League champion and fifth ranked Whitney hosted Louisville in a Division IV-AA first round game. The Lady Wildcats (23-3) have lost their three games by a combined 17 points and are led by seniors Rachel Nagel (580 points) and Reyna Ta’amu (419). With a win, Whitney would play either Marymount or Templeton on Saturday.