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2019 JOHN GLENN-NORWALK GIRLS BASKETBALL VARSITY CLASSIC: Whitney falls in consolation championship while Gahr, Norwalk finish on strong note

By Loren Kopff

When the annual John Glenn-Norwalk Girls Basketball Varsity Classic began on Dec. 4, four area teams were dropped into the loser’s bracket due to first round losses. One of those four then won two straight games and played for the consolation championship.

Whitney High found itself trailing Paramount High by double digits very early and throughout most of the first half, then rallied to get to within a basket late in the game before finally falling to the Pirates 49-44 last Saturday afternoon.

The Lady Wildcats never led in the contest but were down by three points nearly halfway through the opening quarter before Paramount scored nine straight points to make it a 13-1 contest. The lead would balloon to 22-7 with 4:58 remaining in the first half before junior Kimberly Hosoda scored six straight points on a free throw, a two-pointer and a three-pointer in a span of a minute. By the time the half had ended, the Pirates were up 26-18 and the Lady Wildcats were feeling some momentum.

“Well, the first quarter I thought we had a hard time running our offense because we were not focused and we made some bad decisions that led to a lot of turnovers,” said Whitney first-year head coach Myron Jacobs. “That’s why the first quarter was 14-3 Paramount, not to add that we weren’t hitting our shots. In the second quarter, after making some adjustments, I thought our offense started to pick up.”

Whitney shot 17 percent from the field in the first half and turned the ball over six times in the first quarter. But in the third quarter, Paramount began to widen its lead and scored nine straight points to lead by 17 points. However, Whitney ended the stanza strong and went on a 10-2 run over the final half of the quarter.

The Lady Wildcats kept going in the final quarter and went on a 9-2 run over the first 3:47 to trail 39-37 following a three-pointer from senior Janelle Ho. Whitney would remain within two possessions the remainder of the game, but after freshman Rachel Song scored with 59 seconds remaining, Whitney would attempt two more shots.

“Beside the fact that we didn’t start the game strong and Paramount was able to go up 14-3 in the first quarter, we knew that it was only going to get worse because of the height Paramount had in the key and we’ve seen that most of their points were because we didn’t box out,” Jacobs said. “We knew if we slowed the game down and control the rebounds and hit our open shots, we were going to be able to come back.”

Ho and Hosoda were named to the all-tournament team and each scored 17 points. In addition, Hosoda grabbed six rebounds, had five steals and three assists. For the tournament, Hosoda totaled 66 points, 27 rebounds and 20 steals.

“I think Kimberly had a good tournament,” Jacobs said. “For her to have 66 points out of four games says a lot. Yes, I do think her numbers on free throws should be a little bit better. But any coach who sees her numbers would be happy with that. The scary part is she has not even played her best game yet. As a coach, I’m glad to have a kid who loves the game of basketball and plays so hard when she’s out on the court. She’s a great leader and I’m happy to have her on the team.”

Whitney began the tournament falling to Inglewood High 58-42 before defeating Gahr High 62-40 and St. Joseph High 52-38. The Lady Wildcats, who lost to Northview High 47-32 this past Tuesday to drop their record to 3-7, will host Paramount tonight before competing in the Savanna Tournament next week.

“The first nine games have really been a challenge,” Jacobs said. “I think it’s good we are playing up in competition because it’s only making us better. Every game we’ve played to now has showed improvement and I believe that will help us in league. But we do have a lot to fix and I believe when league comes, we will be ready.”

Gahr High kicked off the final day of the tournament hoping to avoid going winless against Lawndale. Despite trailing most of the first half, the Lady Gladiators ended the first half on a roll and continued that momentum into the second half in a 47-29 victory. Gahr had previous lost to tournament runner-up Orange Lutheran High 53-49, and John Glenn High 48-38. 

“It was a much-needed win,” said Gahr first-year head coach Darrell Gillcrese. “We’ve been fighting to stay in each of the games this week. I have to give a lot of praise to my young players for keeping the game close for a few quarters in each of the games.”

Gahr took the lead for good with 40 seconds left in the first half on a basket from freshman Lauryn Teramoto. But with the Lady Gladiators clinging to a 22-20 lead, a steal and basket from senior Kayla Miyake started a 9-0 run that lasted the final 2:58 of the third quarter and gave them a 31-20 advantage.

Gahr was paced by freshman Brya Arroyo, who was named to the all-tournament team. She had a team-high 13 points with three rebounds and three steals. Miyake added 12 points, seven rebounds and seven steals while Teramoto pitched in with 10 points and eight rebounds. As a team, Gahr forced 40 turnovers and had 23 steals.

“I am impressed with all my freshmen and sophomores that have had to play some major minutes so far, and they have learned and improved their game in each game they have played,” Gillcrese said. “I feel like they are getting battle-tested early so that they are ready for league.

“Brya Arroyo has been solid this season,” he continued. “She has played with poised and continues to learn how to impact a game. She is very versatile in her game; she showed that

she could play more than one position. It’s a bonus she can put the ball in the hoop.”

Gahr visited Glenn this past Tuesday and was saddled with a forfeit loss to the Lady Eagles. The Lady Gladiators will next be in action on Thursday at Garden Grove High. At 3-8, Gillcrese knows the record would have been better had it not been for the loss of the team’s leading scorer from last season, senior Clarissa Heredia, who was injured in the third game of the season. Heredia had scored 65 points in the first three games.

“It’s been extremely difficult without having Clarissa; she is the X-factor for our team,” Gillcrese said. “She is truly missed. We can’t wait to get her back on the court. To be honest, we have not had Clarissa or Kayla Miyake in our lineup for several of the first 10 games. We look to pivot to having a solid lineup in our upcoming 18 games.”

Following the Gahr game against Lawndale, the host schools met with the chance to end the tournament 2-2. Norwalk High proved to be too much for the Lady Eagles and turned a close first quarter into a 56-35 victory, improving to 4-3 overall. This was the second time in the past three seasons that Glenn and Norwalk had played in the second game on the final day. In 2017, Norwalk was victorious 55-49 to capture the consolation championship.

“I’m proud of the girls in them closing out the tourney strong,” said Norwalk head coach Ashley Baclaan. “We played a couple of hard games to start off, regathered ourselves and was able to execute to finish.”

Glenn never led in the game but was able to tie the contest six times within the first three minutes, the last coming at 8-8 when senior Dominique Harrison scored off an offensive rebound. After that, the Lady Lancers went on a 15-5 run that lasted into the first minute of the second quarter, highlighted by nine points from junior Ariel Garate, who nailed a pair of three-pointers and converted a third three-point play.

Norwalk would lead 28-20 with 2:45 remaining in the first half before Baclaan called a timeout. Her team responded by ending the half on a 10-0 run and never looked back. Garate, who was named to the all-tournament team, was solid in the half, scoring 15 of her team-high 16 points on 50 percent shooting from the field. She also had four rebounds and two steals in the half and finished the game with nine boards.

“I think Ariel is starting to step into her role of knowing her strengths and being a leader for the team,” Baclaan said. “Her shot has been dropping in for her and it’s great.”

Both teams combined to score 12 points in the third quarter when the final stanza began, Glenn tried to get back into the game by going on a 6-0 run to trail by a dozen points. But Norwalk finished off its city rivals by ending the contest on an 11-2 run.

Junior Brianna Flores, also named to the all-tournament team, also had 16 points and four rebounds while senior Clarissa Perez and sophomore Katrina Slaughter each added half a dozen points. Glenn was led by Harrison, who scored 17 points and had nine rebounds. Junior Cynthia Almanzar pitched in with seven points and five boards.

Norwalk began the tournament falling to South Torrance High 52-25 and Fountain Valley High 61-23 before knocking off Lawndale. Glenn (6-3) lost to Lakewood High 62-41 and St. Joseph High 41-38 before the win over Gahr. 

Norwalk will visit California High tonight before hosting Western High on Tuesday and Anaheim High on Thursday while Glenn travels to Orange High on Saturday. Glenn will host Norwalk on Dec. 20 in their now-annual non-league meeting.

“Glenn, like any opponent, can’t be underestimated,” Baclaan said. “They came out and played hard. I think as for us, we just have to keep in mind of their abilities; how they got buckets and stops on us and prepare that they’re preparing for us too.”

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