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CIF-SS D IV AA GIRLS BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS: Hosoda, Whitney power past Highland in second round

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

Myron Jacobs was quite concerned about one player as he scouted Highland High in preparation for his team’s CIF-Southern Section Division 4 AA second round game last Saturday night. The first-year head coach for Whitney was hoping Azha Dickson and her height would not dominate the game and blow the Lady Wildcats out of their own gymnasium.

Instead, it was junior Kimberly Hosoda who stole the show, especially in the third quarter which was the telling point of the game. 

With her team down by a point at halftime, Hosoda scored half of Whitney’s 18 third quarter points and the Whitney defense limited the Bulldogs to one point in the stanza as the hosts stormed back to knock out Highland 43-31 last Saturday night. The Lady Wildcats improved to 14-13 at the time as it hosted top-seeded Paloma Valley High this past Wednesday night in the semifinals.

“There’s no tomorrow practice and there’s no tomorrow game,” Jacobs said to his team at halftime. “We played for the seniors; we tried to keep it alive as long as we can. We knew that’s where they wanted to go with the ball. So, what we did was we did a very good job of shadowing her in front of [Dickson], making them throw over the top. And we knew that she wasn’t a very good player going with her left hand.”

“I think the biggest motivation for us was just getting into our heads that this is do or die,” Hosoda said. “There’s no second chance; there’s no tomorrow. If we lose, it’s over. I think we all just came to play for not for ourselves, but for our teammates, our seniors, everyone in the stands, our friends, families and teachers. We just came together and tried to pull off a win.”

The opening quarter featured four lead changes with Whitney leading by five points on two separate occasions. While Dickson was nearly a one-person show for the Bulldogs, the tri-Golden League champions, with nine points in the first quarter, it was a pair of three-pointers from junior Julianna Lee and one more from freshman Layla Lacorte that was pacing the Lady Wildcats.

The lead changed hands three more times in the second quarter, but Whitney was limited to two field goals in 13 attempts. Meanwhile, Kimberly Leon scored half a dozen points for Highland as she and Dickson combined for all 20 points Highland scored in the first half. Then in the third quarter, Hosoda and the Whitney defense took over. 

After the eighth lead change of the night, and the last one, Hosoda scored off a steal, then hit a three-pointer and finally grabbed an offensive rebound and scored, all in succession, to make it 28-20. For added measure, she had another steal and assisted on Lee’s three-pointer with 4:23 left in the third quarter. That was followed by a steal and basket from senior Janelle Ho and with a 13-point lead late in the stanza, Whitney was smelling a victory.

“That’s my league MVP,” Jacobs said of Hosoda. “You don’t get a kid like that that wants it more than any other kid on the court. And no disrespect to any other team, but when you look at a kid that comes out here and doesn’t get a break; that plays the whole game with heart and when she’s sick, that’s who I stick with.”

Highland would miss 13 straight shots from the field from late in the second quarter until Dickson scored with 5:38 left in the game, ending a stretch of nearly 13 minutes without a field goal. The Bulldogs managed to get within wight points before a pair of free throws from Hosoda, another steal and basket from Ho and a Ho basket assisted by Hosoda ended the Whitney scoring.

“I think that only happened because I put my reserves off the bench [in],” Jacobs said of the fourth quarter. “I played Rachel Lee, I played Rachel Song, I played Samantha [Poitras], who was a j.v. player that I moved up. We wanted to work them in to get ready for next Wednesday, the big show.”

While three players from Highland scored, led by Dickson’s 14 points, Hosoda continued her late season surge and led the Lady Wildcats with 14 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and three assists. Ho added a dozen points and had four steals with three rebounds and Lee pitched in with nine points and four rebounds. In all, Whitney had 32 rebounds, forgetting the fact it was facing Dickson.

“Obviously having a big definitely plays a different role,” Hosoda said. “It’s harder for us to rebound. Obviously [sophomore Eliana Amanuel] has a lot of responsibilities with that because she’s our main rebounder. So, she really pulled through with that, even though we had some struggles.”

“It’s a lot to the kids,” Jacobs said.  I wanted it for my freshmen; I have a very young team. But at the end of the day, my goal here is to break the Whitney curse and get past the quarterfinals. And, I think this year might be the year.”

Whitney would fall to Paloma Valley 48-29 this past Wednesday, thus missing a chance for the program’s first trip to the semifinals in school history. This was the second straight season the program has advanced to the quarterfinals and seventh in school history, all coming since 2008. 

The Lady Wildcats led 14-10 at the half but shot 21 percent from the field in the second half. Hosoda led Whitney with 12 points and had seven rebounds. Still, Whitney finished at or above .500 for the fifth straight season and ninth out of the last 10 seasons.

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