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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
All good things must come to an end and in the case of the Valley Christian High girls basketball team, it had hoped to continue one of its longest winning streaks in years. But the host Lady Crusaders went nearly nine minutes without a point and fell to Village Christian High 44-32 last Friday night.
The loss was the first in 11 games for Valley Christian as it had not dropped a game since Dec. 16. In addition, the 32 points scored tied a season-low as it also scored 32 against Westminster High on Dec. 12.
“We had one of those games unfortunately again, and we picked the wrong time to do it,” said Valley Christian head coach Dominic Freeman.
Valley Christian scored the first eight points of the game and maintained a lead until Micaela Cacho-Negrete completed a three-point play to tie the game at 12-12 shortly into the second quarter. A steal and basket from senior Cheyenne McKinnie with 3:23 remaining in the half put Valley Christian up by a basket before Village Christian went on a 16-0 run that sealed the fate for the home team. The scoring drought ended with a free throw from junior Jai’lynn Parham with 3:04 left in the third quarter. Four seconds later, sophomore Calla Anderson grabbed an offensive rebound and scored the first field goal since the McKinnie basket.
“We told them we had to take the lid off the basket and continue to trust the process and be patient,” Freeman said. “We just had a lot of uncharacteristic, unforced turnovers. We just didn’t show up tonight and that really hurts.”
Valley Christian tried to make a fourth quarter push, getting its deficit down to eight points three times. But poor shooting from the field (10 of 49 for the game) continued to plague the team. McKinnie led Valley Christian with 16 points and four steals while senior Sahana Oglesby added seven points and had five rebounds. Anderson also grabbed nine boards.
Valley Christian (17-5 overall, 4-1 in the Olympic League), which dropped to second in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division IV-AA poll, would then fall to St. Anthony High 63-40 last Saturday night.
“We played against a team that won it all last year and they’re battle tested,” Freeman said of Village Christian. “We’re still trying to get there and we’re just not there yet, or at least tonight, we didn’t showcase that. But we told these girls that they have a target on their back.”
Following the game, the Valley Christian boys saw Village Christian score the first eight points of the game and went wire to wire in a 60-53 victory. Valley Christian got to within three points with 15.8 seconds left in the game, but Village Christian’s Jordan Starr went six for six at the line down the stretch.
“Unfortunately, that game has been our M.O. lately,” said Valley Christian head coach Bryan Branderhorst. “Slow starts, and then when urgency hits later in the game, we play with a little more intensity and make a run on guys.”
A steal and basket from junior Garret Williams at the end of the first quarter, plus another basket to open the second quarter made the score 14-10. Valley Christian then got to within a point twice in the second quarter before the visitors went on an 8-1 run over the final 2:29 of the half. Village Christian then extended its lead to 32-19 in the opening minutes of the second half and held a double digit lead until the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Valley Christian capped off a mini 4-0 run when senior Aaron Purnell scored off an offensive rebound to make it 47-30 with 5:33 left to play. After a three-pointer from Elijiah Scranton, Purnell had another basket off an offensive board and then hit a three-pointer. Moments later, junior Jacob Green scored off of his only steal and then hit the first of two free throws to make it 54-50 with 1:28 remaining.
Purnell led Valley Christian with 17 points and eight rebounds while freshman Gorden Boykins added nine points. Green, who grabbed seven boards, was one of three players to score half a dozen points.
“Aaron has been fantastic,” Branderhorst said. “He’s been the leading scorer most nights; obviously the leading scorer all season, and he does it in a variety of ways. One night he might get you from the three-point line, the other night maybe from the free throw line or getting baskets.”
Prior to the game, Valley Christian, Heritage Christian High and Whittier Christian High were all tied for second place with 2-2 league marks with Maranatha High leading the way at 4-0. Both Valley Christian teams will host Maranatha tonight before ending the regular season at Whittier Christian and Heritage Christian on Tuesday and Thursday nights respectively.
“I think the deal is that’s just kind of how the league is right now,” Branderhorst said. “There’s more parity in the Olympic League than there’s been in a long time. None of this comes as a total surprise.
“We have three games left and the reality is all of our focus is on Maranatha at this point,” Branderhorst later added. “We don’t play until Friday night, so we have a nice week to try to prepare. I guess the biggest goal is just trying to have some momentum and getting healthy and playing well moving into the playoffs.”
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