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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Ebalo, Bushong carry Valley Christian girls to victory over CAMS in holiday tournament

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

It may have been a school holiday but the Valley Christian High girls basketball team was still active on Martin Luther King’s Day this past Monday. The Lady Defenders faced the California Academy of Mathematics and Science High in the “It’s Not Just Hoops” Tournament at Whitney High this past Monday and despite a sluggish second half, came away with a 46-35 victory. 

Junior Jordan Ebalo was the star of the game, scoring a game-high 19 points, grabbing 14 rebounds along with 14 steals while senior McKenna Bushong added 14 points as V.C. pulled away from the Rebels in the second quarter.

“She does a lot for us,” said V.C. first-year head coach Gene Bras of Ebalo. “She shows up every game, she does the little things, she works hard every day in practice. She doesn’t really take anything off in terms of drills and different things. She’s a great leader; she’s a quiet leader. She definitely wears a lot of different hats for us.”

Ebalo made her presence known early and often, scoring nine points in the first quarter with four steals and a pair of blocks. In fact, she scored seven straight points to put her team up 9-5. Later in the quarter, Bushong made a free throw, followed by a three-pointer as the Lady Defenders extended their lead to 15-9 with 1:37 remaining in the stanza.

After CAMS tied the game 31 seconds into the second quarter, a basket from Ebalo, followed by a steal and assist on a bucket from senior Kailani Kane, then another trifecta from Bushong put V.C. up 25-17 and it would hold a lead the remainder of the way. 

In a low-scoring third quarter, CAMS scored the four points before the Lady Defenders began an 8-0 run at the 2:11 mark of the stanza. It began with a steal from Ebalo who assisted on junior Makani Kane’s lone basket. Ebalo would score twice after that plus the only basket of the game for sophomore Gillian Doplemore.

“I think after the first half of the third quarter we played better,” Bras said. “After that, I thought we did a pretty good job. I felt like we did a little better job attacking. Again, we’re a good three-point shooting team and sometimes you kind of rely on that too much and that wasn’t really going for us today.”

V.C., which also defeated Buena Park High 40-33 this past Wednesday, will take an 11-12 record into tonight’s road game at Maranatha High as Olympic League action resumes. The Lady Defenders, who are 2-2 in league action, will also host Village Christian High on Tuesday.

“I think you’re better off playing a game at this point as opposed to just having the whole week off,” Bras said. “Today was kind of rugged. Again, I think there’s a lot of factors that go into that. You’re playing on a day there’s no school, you’re playing at 1:30 in the afternoon. I can’t say our effort was bad.”

Later in the afternoon, former Suburban League rivals met when Cerritos High squared off against Norwalk High. While the game was close for its entirety, Norwalk came up short in a 62-53 decision. This was Norwalk’s first game in 13 days and was the last non-league contest as the Lady Lancers began league action this past Wednesday at Mayfair High.

“A lot of our games that we played throughout winter break and since school began, I think, have been good for us,” said Norwalk head coach Ashley Baclaan. “They’ve been battling pretty hard. Some of them are pretty tight-knit games, but we just fell short.

Norwalk was able to tie the Lady Dons twice in the first quarter, the last time coming on a basket from sophomore Denise Cortez at the end of the stanza. Norwalk would remain within one or two possessions until Cerritos senior Alyssa Sarigumba’s basket almost two minutes into the second half made it 27-22.

The Lady Lancers (9-10 overall) would later trail by 10 points after a steal and basket from Cerritos sophomore Amara Hizon. But Norwalk went on an 8-2 run as senior Melanie Camarena and junior Brianna Flores each scored twice. At 40-36, that would be the closest the Lady Lancers would get in the game.

Senior Nya Johnson came off the bench to score a team-high 11 points while Flores added 10 points. Johnson and Camarena would also pull down nine rebounds while Flores had eight boards. Sophomore Katrina Slaughter had four steals as well. Cerritos was led by Sarigumba (13 points) and sophomore Jasmine Uy (11 points).

Norwalk, which has been hovering around the .500 mark all season, faced La Mirada High on Jan. 23 and will travel to Bellflower High on Tuesday for its final road game. Norwalk, which has played three non-tournament home games, ends the regular season with three straight home games, beginning with a Jan. 31 contest against Mayfair.

“We can’t change nothing of it,” Baclaan said of her team’s record. “But I hope we learn from it and coming into league this week, hopefully we can just make a mark.”