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ACADEMY LEAGUE GIRLS BASKETBALL: Whitney girls lost in Neverland on Homecoming night, can’t keep up with Oxford Academy

The smallest player on the court, 4’11” junior Christine Hamakawa of Whitney High, guards Oxford Academy’s Austyn Masuno, the tallest player on the court who stands at 6’2″ in last Friday night’s Academy League girls basketball game. Oxford Academy came away with a 52-37 victory with Masuno scoring a team-high 11 points while Hamakawa was limited to only a pair of three-pointers. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.




By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

From the 2010-2011 to 2013-2014 seasons, six Academy League schools were chasing the Whitney High girls basketball program, which did not lose a league game during that time. For the past two seasons though, everyone in the circuit has been looking up at the Oxford Academy.

Those two met last Friday night on Whitney’s homecoming, with the theme being “The Battle for Neverland”. It was a battle early on until the Patriots went on a 17-3 run from the last half of the first quarter to the first couple of minutes of the second quarter. That was more than enough for Oxford to run away with a 52-37. It was the fifth straight loss to the Patriots, who had defeated Whitney by an average of 7.3 points the previous four times.

The Lady Wildcats led 6-2 following junior Justine Wu’s three-point play two and a half minutes into the game. It would be Whitney’s largest lead of the game. Wu would score with 3:37 remaining in the first quarter to make it 8-7. But that would be the last time the hosts would score until Wu completed another three-point play 15 seconds into the second quarter.

“I think we were ready for their press,” said Whitney head coach Jeff Day. “We knew they weren’t going to bother us on the front of it. I told them when they press us, we want to attack the press because we were going to get lay-up opportunities. We did not finish enough against their press. I thought that was a big thing.”

It was no surprise to either team that Oxford held a considerable height advantage, considering they have been each other’s rivals for many years. At 5’ 6”, Wu is Whitney’s tallest player in the starting lineup and the Lady Wildcats don’t have a player taller than 5’ 9”. In contrast, Oxford’s pride and joy for the past two and a half seasons has been, and continues to be 6’2” junior Austyn Masuno. Three other starters are at least 5’ 7”, but despite the height factor, Whitney’s defense contained Masuno most of the time, limiting her to three field goals and a team-high 11 points. In fact, in five meetings, Whitney has held Masuno, clearly the best player in the league, to 72 points but 18 field goals. She has helped her team beat Whitney by going a combined 36 for 43 at the free throw line.

While Whitney was doing its thing with Masuno, the Patriots were letting someone other than senior Christine Hamakawa beat them. Hamakawa, the sharp-shooting perimeter player that can do it all for the Lady Wildcats scored just a pair of three-pointers, one in the first quarter and the other in the fourth quarter. She attempted 11 shots in the game.

“With Austyn, we just told her to play within yourself, keep moving across the lane,” said Oxford Academy head coach David Clifton. “I’ll take two points from the foul line as much as I’ll take two points from a field goal. It was frustrating when she was getting double and tripled-teamed. But we had to just tell her to keep moving, keep moving, keep moving because when they triple-team you, somebody else is open.”

Whitney trailed by nine at the half and cut its deficit to six points after a three-pointer from freshman Julianna Lee with 5:24 remaining in the third quarter. That would be it for the Lady Wildcats, who scored five more field goals the remainder of the game and none since the 4:03 mark of the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the Patriots went on a 14-6 run to lead 48-32, their largest advantage of the contest.

“They didn’t hurt us on the strong side shooting, really,” Day said. “In the first quarter they did. They only made two threes in the game and I’ll take that. I told my team we’re [zero] for five with this defensive scheme. I think our defense has given us a chance to be in every one of those games. I asked them if we wanted to do something different next time and they said no.”

“Well, we let them back in it,” Clifton said. “Settling down, it changed our defense. We changed our defense midway through the third quarter. We went from our zone to our man and we played shutdown defense on their three-point shooter Hamakawa.

“She was the one that we keyed on because of the three,” he added. “But [Wu] is the one who scares me more than anything else. We had to stop her penetration because she is the key. When she penetrates, she looks. We had some defensive lapses at times, but I think our girls did a pretty good job.”

Wu led the Lady ‘Cats with 12 points and three steals while sophomore Janelle Ho came off the bench to add half a dozen points and five rebounds, two assists and two steals. Junior Kiana Sanchez grabbed eight boards. The Patriots also got stellar play from Angie Choi and Brianna Rodriguez, each of whom scored 10 points. Masuno also pulled down 19 rebounds.

“They were up on [Hamakawa], so we put the ball in Justine’s hands more,” Day said. “Justine did a good job. She kind of looked like she did towards the end of last year; catch and squaring up and attack the basket.”

Whitney would bounce back to knock off Shalhevet High 53-41 this past Monday behind Hamakawa (18 points, three rebounds, three steals, two assists), senior Deja Forest (10 points, three rebounds) and Lee (nine points, four rebounds. The next night, Whitney defeated Calvary Chapel Downey 59-10 as Wu continued to have a breakout season, scoring 16 points, grabbing five rebounds and having five steals. Hamakawa drained four three-pointers for all of her 12 points and had nine steals while Ho came off the bench to add 11 points. Whitney held the Lady Grizzlies to no points in the final 18:56 of the contest.

Whitney (12-8 overall, 3-2 in league) will visit St. Margaret’s High tonight to conclude the first round of league play, then travel to Sage Hill High on Tuesday. The rematch with Oxford is Feb. 2.

“We are not afraid of Oxford at all,” Day said. “Absolutely not. We played soft against them. The freshmen might have been a little intimidated. At halftime I told said we have to go at them. We can’t flinch, stop, jump and fade away from them.”