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LARRY DOYLE/DAN WILEY 2019 O.C. TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS : Valley Christian girls basketball ends tournament on high note, John Glenn falls to Edison

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

HUNTINGTON BEACH-A pair of area teams called it a wrap in the annual Larry Doyle/Dan Wiley 2019 O.C. Tournament of Champions with one claiming a win despite going scoreless in the fourth quarter while the other falling for the third time in four games. Valley Christian High was able to hold on against host co-host Marina High last Saturday afternoon for a 37-27 victory, its second lowest point total this season in a victory.

“I kind of knew going into this tournament that this would be a good tournament,” said V.C. first-year head coach Gene Bras. “My girls always play really hard and are really scrappy and stuff. I think those games against Edison and against Cypress could have gone either way. I think it’s a good test of where we’re at for league too, because that’s kind of what our league teams are going to be like.”

The Lady Defenders improved to 6-10 as they held an opponent to under 30 points for the fourth time this season. Junior Jordan Ebalo, who had a great tournament, scored nine of her team’s 10 points in the first quarter and ended the contest with 18 points. Through three quarters, V.C. had built a 37-19 lead, but still got the win despite missing on all 10 shots taken. Senior McKenna Bushong added eight points against the Vikings.

V.C. began the tournament by falling to co-host Edison High 60-50 on Dec. 23, then defeated Segerstrom High 58-45 last Thursday behind 29 points and 10 rebounds from Ebalo. The Lady Defenders scored the first nine points of the game and never looked back. With the Lady Defenders leading 38-33 late in the third quarter, they went on a 13-0 run to seal the victory.

Junior Faith Boss scored nine points and had three assists while Bushong added eight points and six rebounds. The next day, V.C. fell to Cypress High 50-47 with Bushong scoring 19 points and Ebalo another dozen points. Ebalo was also named to the all-tournament team.

“I think we’re a pretty balanced team,” Bras said. “We’re a lot of the same type of players; not too many tall players, but they’re scrappy and pretty skilled. So, we’re going to have to kind of fight the whole year. I thought we got some good contributions from a couple of our sophomores in this tournament.”

V.C., which has finished above .500 twice in the past eight seasons and has not reached 10 victories in each of the past two seasons, will visit Sacred Heart of Los Angeles High on Jan. 4 before jumping into Olympic League action three days later against Maranatha High. The Lady Defenders have eight league games and three non-league contests remaining on the docket for the regular season.

“There’s a few things to clean up, but I think we competed well,” Bras said. “I think we’re doing some things better than we did early in the year. But I guess there’s still room to improve. I guess that’s the way you want it. I’m happy we have that one game to kind of get our feet wet before we go into league. Those first couple of games will be huge ones, Maranatha and Heritage [Christian]. Again, our league is pretty balanced.”

Following V.C.’s game with Marina, John Glenn High was also looking to even its tournament mark at 2-2 but couldn’t find a way to put together several scoring runs against Edison despite staying withing striking range. In the end, the Chargers pulled out a 41-33 victory. 

“I told them at halftime the issue that we’re having right now is we’re not playing to win; we’re playing not to lose,” said Glenn head coach Ruben Guerrero. “That means that they’re playing a little more tentative than they should. I think that’s the difference that it comes down to.”

Glenn led 7-6 after the first quarter but quickly gave up baskets to Taylor Fullbright and Gwen Ontiveros within the first minute of the second quarter. After that, both teams traded points and by halftime, the Lady Eagles were down 22-17.

Glenn was trailing 29-22 with 3:41 remaining in the third quarter before it scored five straight points, its longest scoring streak of the game. But the team had a poor fourth quarter, taking 10 shots and connecting on a pair of them.

Senior Perla Santana led the Lady Eagles with 15 points, including all six in the fourth quarter, and had four rebounds and three assists while junior Cynthia Almanzar added seven rebounds and three assists.

“She’s been doing a lot better,” Guerrero said of Santana. “Last year she was the turnover queen for us. This year, she’s a little bit more poised, a little bit more intent. It’s her last year, so she wants to have a good year no matter what.”

Glenn began the tournament on Dec. 23 falling to Aliso Niguel High 64-26 before picking up a narrow 29-26 win against Marina on Dec. 26. The next day, the Lady Eagles fell to Long Beach Wilson High 71-37. This is the second straight tournament Glenn went 1-3, but Guerrero still thought this was a good tournament for his team.

“I think so because it exposes all the stuff that we do wrong; stuff that we need to clean up, stuff that we needed to do a lot better,” Guerrero said. “The fact that we don’t play with confidence from time to time hurts us.”

At 10-7, Glenn has already bettered its record from last season and is looking to end a season with a winning mark for the first time since the 2010-2011 campaign when that team went 19-9. The Lady Eagles will have only its 605 League games remaining on the regular season schedule, beginning with a Jan. 7 contest at Pioneer High.

“I thought we were going to go 2-2, at least in this tournament,” Guerrero said. “But still, 10-7 is not bad, We’re one win better than last year’s group. So, that’s always a positive. It just comes down to the girls believing in what we’re doing more.”