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SUBURBAN LEAGUE BASKETBALL: Norwalk boys pull off another surprise to keep slim playoff hopes alive


By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter


The Suburban League boys basketball team that no one wants to face right now is Norwalk High. Once left for dead at 0-5 in the circuit, the Lancers have won three straight games to get themselves back in the race for at least fourth place and the final automatic berth from the league.

That was made possible after Norwalk’s come-from-behind 70-62 win at Artesia High this past Wednesday that increased its record to 8-14 overall and 3-5 in the league. In fact, according to head coach Brent Campanelli, the motto every day at practice has been ‘stick another rung in the dirt’, meaning the Lancers need to get enough rungs to build a ladder to dig out of the hole it has made

“I think we’ve been a threat the whole time,” he said. “We’ve been really trying to learn and really trying to grow through this, and it has been a struggle. But to be honest, it’s not too late because that win puts us in a tie with them if the other teams do what we think is going to happen. Now, that’s a damn good basketball team and they’re going to make life hell on Cerritos, Mayfair and La Mirada. That’s for sure.”

Artesia led 20-16 after the first quarter and scored the first two baskets of the second quarter within the first three minutes for its largest lead of the game. But the Lancers went on a 14-5 run the remainder of the half, thanks to senior Justin Schultheis, who had eight points and five rebounds in the stanza. In fact, no other player from either team was as hot as Schultheis was, who was 11 for 11 from the field for a career-high 22 points. He also grabbed seven rebounds.

The Lancers, who led 30-29 at the half, extended their lead to 45-37 with 3:47 left in the third quarter. But the Pioneers (14-8, 4-4) went on an 11-0 run over the final 3:04 of the third quarter with senior Roman Hernandez and junior Heder Gladden accounting for all 11 points.

“It’s sort of been the same third to fourth quarter speech for a season now, because we’ve been playing from behind this whole time,” Campanelli said. “I just told the guys to stick with it. We’ve grown so much in the last two weeks and just knew guys were going to battle.”

However, the Lancers chipped away at their deficit and took a 50-49 lead on a three-pointer from sophomore Christopher Herrera. Artesia went back in front and were primed to win going away when Gladden scored at the 3:41 mark to make it 60-56. But again, Norwalk battled back and reeled off 11 straight points to take a seven-point lead with 15.5 seconds left in the game. Herrera scored five points and had an assist and senior Cris Cecenas provided four points in that last push for the win.

“We had to take Justin out,” Campanelli said. “He’s our big guy; he’s our anchor down there. But he was having tough matchups. So, we went to a senior and we went to another sophomore and just tried to rotate them and hope they could slow down their guards. At one point, I think it was five point guards against five point guards.”

Norwalk starters scored all but two points as Herrera had 16 followed by 10 from Cecenas, senior Richard Lozano and sophomore Pablo Juarez. Cecenas also has half a dozen rebounds while Herrera and Lozano each had four assists. The Pioneers were led by Gladden (22 points, five rebounds and three steals) and Hernandez (18 points and four rebounds). Gladden was coming off a career-high 39-point performance against Bellflower High two days prior.

“What can you say,” Campanelli questioned. “The kid’s phenomenal; I’m so impressed with him. I’m proud of the way he just battles and he’s not even my guy. But I got into high school basketball to go against young men like that and he’s a hell of a player. No doubt about that.”

Prior to the game, the Norwalk Lady Lancers used a 25-4 run over a 10-minute stretch in the first half to knock off the Lady Pioneers 47-29. Norwalk remains in third place in the league, two games behind Mayfair High and two games ahead of Bellflower.

After Artesia took a 5-4 lead on a three-point play from junior Odalis Ramirez, a bucket from junior Annie Valele at the 5:34 mark of the opening quarter was the beginning of the long scoring spree. The hosts (8-12, 0-8) ended the first half on a small run but still, Norwalk was up 31-15 at the half with senior Bjanka Torres and freshman Brianna Torres each scoring seven points.

The Lady Lancers (11-9, 5-3) extended their lead to 27 points early in the fourth quarter before Artesia ended the game on a 9-0 run. Junior Destiny Goodloe led Norwalk with 10 points while Valele had eight points, 10 rebounds and five steals. Flores also had 10 rebounds as Norwalk had 37 rebounds and 23 steals. Senior Cassidy Valle-Martinas led Artesia with eight points. While Ramirez and senior Jessica Tibayan each added seven points. Tibayan also had seven rebounds.

Artesia will host Cerritos High tonight while Norwalk visits Mayfair tonight and is home to John Glenn High on Wednesday.

“We do need some help still, and we’re aware of that,” Campanelli said. “We’ve got to take care of these next four games the best we can, and our confidence is at an all-time high, at least for this season.”