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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW: Whitney girls basketball stays in hunt for high Academy League spot, cruise past St. Margaret’s

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter


With two weeks remaining in the regular season, it is crunch time for the Whitney High girls basketball team as far as not only advancing to the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section playoffs, but possibly finishing in the top three of the Academy League. The Lady Wildcats took a big step in one of those two by knocking off St. Margaret’s High 48-27 this past Tuesday night.

The Lady Wildcats improved to 12-8 overall, 5-3 in the circuit and have won two straight games against teams looking up at them following a three-game losing streak.

“We did what we had to do at certain times,” said Whitney head coach Jeff Day. “Did we play as well as we could have or what I have like? No, but that was probably the best that we ran our half-court offense probably since [Jan. 13].”

St. Margaret’s scored the first five points of the game before Whitney reeled off 11 straight points with senior Nicole Lee and sophomores Kiana Sanchez and Justine Wu having a major part of it. Then in the second quarter, the hosts would reel off 12 straight points to go up 25-12. Finally, Whitney would score 11 consecutive points that began with a basket from freshman Janelle Ho with 8.8 seconds left in the first half and ended with a three-pointer from Lee with 5:41 remaining in the third quarter.

“All of them were probably involved with the three-point shot,” Day said of the scoring streaks. “That’s our team; we’re going to limit that out on the perimeter. I have two, two and a half guards that can attack the basket. Justine attacked strong to the hole and did a lot of good finishing. If she can do that and at the same time Nicole or [sophomore] Christine [Hamakawa] are hitting three’s, then things are going to be so much easier because the next couple of games, we’re going to play big, strong teams that are going to be matching up on the outside.”

Wu had one of her best games in her brief high school career, scoring a career-high 17 points while grabbing five rebounds, assisting on four scores and picking up a pair of steals. Lee pitched in with 11 points, five boards and five steals while Hamakawa had nine points and four steals.

“She started out slow,” Day said of Wu. “I was going to take her out and get in her face in the first two to three minutes. She was out of position on defense, she got beat on a rebound and she should have slid under for a lay-up or something else on offense that she didn’t do that she should have. But tonight’s matchups were good for her.”

Whitney visited Calvary Chapel Downey High on Feb. 2 and will travel to Crean Lutheran High on Saturday before hosting Sage Hill High on Tuesday and Oxford Academy on Thursday to round out the regular season. Entering the Calvary Chapel Downey game, Whitney was tied for third place with Sage Hill with Oxford Academy leading the pack with a 7-1 league mark, followed by Crean Lutheran at 7-3.

“The schedule has been good to us this year because in both rounds, we started with the worst team, then we have the next worst team,” Day said. “We end up playing, in order, the teams that are progressively tougher.”

In other girls basketball action, Cerritos High remained in first place in the Suburban League after holding off Norwalk High 63-58 this past Wednesday evening. The Lady Dons were leading 56-44 with 6:17 left in the game before the Lady Lancers rallied to trail by two points with 65 seconds remaining.

Cerritos (16-8 overall, 10-0 in league) was led by senior Cailey Vitug, who had 13 points, nine rebounds, three steals and two assists while senior Ifeoma Okoli added 10 points and eight rebounds. Norwalk (10-12, 4-6) was paced by senior Crystal Lambey (18 points, 13 rebounds, three assists) and junior Bjanka Torres (13 points). Cerritos will visit John Glenn High tonight before hosting second place Mayfair High on Tuesday to complete the regular season, hoping to end with the school’s first 12-0 league season since 1998 when the Lady Dons were in the Mission Valley League. Norwalk, which is home to Bellflower High tonight, is tied for fourth place with La Mirada High and will host the Matadores on Thursday.

Gahr High got past Warren High 41-36 this past Tuesday to improved to 12-9 overall and 3-4 in the San Gabriel Valley League. The Lady Gladiators travelled to El Dorado High on Feb. 2 and will go to Paramount High tonight before hosting Downey High on Tuesday. The regular season ends with a road trip to Dominguez High on Thursday.


The Suburban League race just got more interesting after Norwalk senior Jacob Molina hit a three-pointer from the top of the key as time expired to give the Lancers a come from behind 56-54 road win at Cerritos this past Wednesday. Norwalk trailed 28-10 after the first quarter and 49-35 with 1:37 left in the third quarter.

But the Lancers went on a 13-0 run and finally took its first lead of the game with 3:05 remaining on a three-pointer from senior David Balderas. Norwalk (10-14, 4-6) had four players score in double figures-seniors Jordan Volpei (15), Desmond Johnlouis (13) and Balderas and Molina each with a dozen. Johnlouis also grabbed 11 rebounds while Molina had five rebounds and five assists. Junior Destin Flucas led Cerritos (12-13, 7-3) with 16 points and 10 rebounds while junior Jvonnte Moore added 10 points and six rebounds.

Entering tonight’s action, Cerritos was one game behind second place La Mirada and one and a half games behind Mayfair. Norwalk was trailing fourth place Artesia High by a game and a half.

Gahr remained undefeated in San Gabriel Valley League action with a 69-52 win over Warren. The Gladiators (16-8, 7-0) have won three straight and eight of their last nine games.


Both Valley Christian High soccer teams are in position to win Olympic League titles. The boys tied Village Christian High 2-2 last Friday but still own a league mark of 4-0-1 to go along with an overall record of 10-6-2. The Lady Crusaders blasted Village Christian 10-0 last Friday to improve to 13-3-3 and 5-0 in the circuit. Both Valley Christian teams will face Maranatha High today, Whittier Christian High on Tuesday and Heritage Christian High on Thursday with the boys on the road tonight while the girls are home next week. The boys game with Maranatha will decide the league title while the girls have yet to be scored on in 2017.