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2017 JOHN GLENN-NORWALK GIRLS BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT: Norwalk rallies in second half to steal consolation championship away from city rival

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

The John Glenn High girls basketball team was destined to blowout its cross-town rival Norwalk High in the consolation championship of their co-hosted tournament, especially when it led 28-14 with 3:31 left in the first half. But the Lady Lancers made a sudden surge at the end of the half, going on a 10-0 run, then outscored the Lady Eagles 18-12 in the third quarter to pull out a 55-49 win last Saturday afternoon at Norwalk High.

The last time these Suburban League rivals were supposed to play each other, it was for 15th place in a 16-team tournament a few years ago. The former coaches back then decided not to play each other. This time, both head coaches were glad that the game went on instead of switching opponents on the final day of the four-day event.

“It was great for our program,” said Glenn first-year head coach Ruben Guerrero. “One thing the seniors on my team kept saying is that they have never done that in our tournament or placed in any tournament from what they remember. Playing for the consolation championship felt pretty good and taking third in the Mark Keppel Tournament [Nov. 24-Dec. 2] was great for my girls. Even though we lost this game, going 2-2 in any tournament is still pretty good.”

The Lady Eagles led virtually the entire first quarter and most of the second quarter, going on scoring runs of 6-0, 7-0, 7-0 and 6-0 as they built a 28-14 advantage. Junior Paola Ramirez and sophomore Dominique Harrison were pacing Glenn with a combined 15 points first quarter points and three rebounds each. Glenn shot better than 50 percent from the field and led 21-10 after the first quarter.

“Well, they have more size now,” said Norwalk head coach Ashley Baclaan of the early woes. “That was just something…we were [without junior] Annie [Valele] but we pulled through. It was just trying to get their minds right again and not giving up.”

However, as fast as Glenn built that 14-point lead, it began to evaporate over the final 3:31 of the half when the Lady Eagles missed their final six shots from the field. In that same time, the Lady Lancers scored 11 straight points including back to back steals from seniors Bjanka Torres and Angie Aldana, the former scoring off the theft.

Norwalk took its second one-point lead of the game with 5:51 left in the third quarter following a three-point play from junior Destiny Goodloe. After that, it was a wave of momentum by both teams with Glenn going on an 8-3 run followed by 9-2 Norwalk run to end the third quarter.

“There were a lot of turnovers on our side,” Baclaan said. “There were some decisions that could have been a little bit better to make things probably a little bit smoother. But it was fun. I like the intensity of it.”

“We did a great job of creating that big lead, but lack of composure to maintain it kept letting Norwalk back in,” Guerrero said. “Don’t get me wrong, Norwalk played a good game and played hard. The difference in the two teams, as I told my team at the end of the game, is Norwalk followed the coach’s instructions; we did not. If that would have been different, who knows how this game would have really went.”

Glenn scored the first three baskets of the fourth quarter to take a 46-43 lead before Aldana tied it with a basket and a free throw. Then Harrison gave the Lady Eagles another three-point lead with a free throw and basket as Glenn led with 1:28 remaining. After that, it was all Norwalk. Aldana was fouled on a three-point attempt and made two free throws. Then Goodloe tied the game with a free throw with 1:04 left. Two more charity shots from Aldana gave Norwalk the lead for good 12 seconds later and her basket soon after iced the game.

“We simply lost our composure,” Guerrero said. “We were so set on winning instead of competing for four quarters. My team fell back into old habits. My girls were not making the adjustments that we needed.”

Harrison led Glenn with 16 points and 11 rebounds while Ramirez added another 12 points and five rebounds. Glenn had previously lost to Whittier High 49-47 before knocking off Bassett High 38-34 and Samueli Academy 50-13 in the tournament. After going 3-22 last season, the Lady Eagles are 6-4 as they visited Paramount High on Dec. 14. Glenn will begin league play against Mayfair High on Monday before facing the Lady Lancers at home on Wednesday. The six wins are the most since the 2014-2015 season.

“Our girls play hard and with the coaching change, I believe it brought some excitement back in the program,” Guerrero said. “Since we have doubled our wins from last season this early in our season, I believe that’s helping the girls believe in the coaches and adding to the excitement amongst the girls.

“With 20 games in front of us, that gives us so much room for opportunity,” he continued. “I believe our girls are inspired right now; they want to win. They are tired of losing and sick of the stigma that our program carries, and we are doing everything we can to change it.”

Aldana scored a game-high 20 points, with three three-pointers, and had six steals while Torres added 18 points and was six of nine from the line while Goodloe chipped in with eight points and six rebounds.

“I think she’s fining her role,” Baclaan said of Aldana. “She’s understanding it, she’s knowing her range. As long as she keeps playing to her strength’s, she’ll be alright. But her shot has definitely helped us.

“Bjanka has definitely come into her own,” Baclaan added. “I think she’s now understanding more patience. Defensively, she’s become more solid and more solid.”

Norwalk, which fell to Pioneer High 61-55 before posting wins against Paramount High (37-33) and Fountain Valley High (57-54), improved to 4-2. The Lady Lancers hosted Baldwin Park High on Dec. 14 and will travel to La Mirada High on Monday before the rematch with Glenn.

“Come within the next couple of weeks, things could change,” Baclaan said of the two league meetings with Glenn. “I always see that as the season goes on, everybody gets better in some way. I hope that after having these last three tight games, just realizing that if you just keep pushing through and chipping away little by little, something could happen.”