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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Valley Christian rallies in fourth quarter to nip Whitney in low scoring affair

April 22, 2021

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter


Nothing has come easy for high school basketball in Southern California because of the 13-month pandemic. From the season beginning later than usual, to fewer games being played, to the lack of practice time players and coaches had had since the sport was allowed to start up again, teams are having their own issues while giving the athletes what they want to do, which is to play.

Take the Valley Christian High and Whitney High girls basketball teams for example. One entered last Friday night’s game with five games under its belt while the other was playing its second game. In the end, you could tell which team had more practice time as V.C. rallied from a three-point deficit with 6:18 left to play, scored eight straight points, then staved off a late Whitney rally to escape with a 38-36 win.

“Girls that normally don’t get those minutes stepped in,” said V.C. first-year head coach Anthony Roldan. “Whenever their name was called upon, they were ready to go. Defensively, [junior] Keiara Harvey helped us out a lot; that and just the whole spread of players contributed. Usually [seniors] Makani [Kane] and Jordan Ebalo take up a load of the scoring. But again, girls stepped up when their name was called.”

The rally started when junior Gillian Doplemore grabbed a rebound off a miss from junior Samantha Sims and scored with 4:33 left in the game. Forty seconds later, Ebalo put her team in front for good with a three-point play and with 2:44 remaining, she fed a pass to Kane who drained a three-pointer for a five-point lead.

The Lady Wildcats tried to get back in the game and made it a two-point affair following a three-pointer from sophomore Layla Lacorte with 59.5 seconds left. But Whitney could only get one shot off the rest of the way.

“The loss is on me,” said Whitney head coach Myron Jacobs. “I told the team the loss is on me. I had two timeouts left; I called one to try to set up a trap to get the ball back. Obviously, it worked, [but] we blew our chance of tying the game. I always have a method; if a team loses by five or less, it’s the coaches fault. If a team loses by more than 20, it’s the kids’ fault. So, I take full responsibility for this game.”

Both teams went back and forth for most of the first half as the lead changed hands seven times before halftime and neither team had a lead greater than three points. Whitney had missed on its first five attempts before Jacobs called a timeout with 4:44 left in the first quarter. It wasn’t until 38 seconds later that Lacorte scored the first of her three downtown baskets in the stanza to put the Lady Wildcats on the board. However, after her nine-point performance of the opening quarter, she was limited to three unsuccessful attempts until the last points of the game.

“We knew [she] was going to be one of the key players to have our eyes on and we adjusted defensively; tried some defensive schemes and we were able to get the ball again,” Roldan said.

“I thought Layla did great starting us off,” Jacobs said. “For her being a sophomore, I thought in the second half, she is still learning how to make adjustments. Every coach makes adjustments when they realize she’s a shooter or she’s getting the most points, they adjust to it. I thought she should have changed her game up a little bit better, but she didn’t.”

For the most part, Whitney was a two-person team on this night with senior Kimberly Hosoda scoring seven first half points. Two other players accounted for the other four points in the first half, which belonged to Whitney, 20-17. And after Sims began the second half with a basket, Whitney senior Julianna Lee scored the next five points to make it 25-19 nearly 90 seconds into the second half.

V.C. would seem to dominate the remainder of the third quarter and ended the stanza with six straight points, the final four from sophomore Meghan Patterson, to go back in front 30-28. It would mark the sixth time it led in the game, but first in the second half.

“Our team is a family and when one girl succeeds, we all succeed,” Roldan said of Patterson. “We know that she can do those things. She had a moment like that earlier this year to get us back against Northview. So, we expect that of her.”

“I thought in the fourth quarter we definitely were stagnant on offense,” Jacobs said. “I thought we could have rebounded better, not to mention we didn’t have our true point guard [sophomore] Kayla [Hamakawa], who is leading the team right now. We had to make some adjustments at the last minute because of the game we just played on Wednesday.

“The fact that we’ve been out of basketball for a year and we’re practicing for one day…it’s hard to make adjustments to the players,” he continued. We practice every day. It’s just that we’re playing three games a week. That one day that we have [to practice], there’s only so much you can do in a two-hour period. You don’t want to actually practice the day before a game. It’s more of a walkthrough.”

The Lady Wildcats were led by Hosoda, who scored 15 points and grabbed a dozen rebounds, and Lacorte, who added a dozen points, but was four of 11 from the field. The Lady Wildcats would then fall to La Serna High 44-35 the next night and began 605 League play this past Tuesday against John Glenn High. Whitney will visit Cerritos High tonight and host Artesia High on Tuesday.

“That name, Kim Hosoda, is a household Whitney name,” Jacobs said. “Everybody knows what she comes with. I would never bet against her. If I need a bucket, I will go to her. I thought in the fourth quarter, she had two key buckets and some rebounds. But again, one player can’t do it all.”

The Lady Defenders were paced by Ebalo’s 10 points and 13 rebounds while Dopplemore added nine points and eight rebounds. V.C. would collect 33 boards to 27 from Whitney as it lost to St. Anthony High 45-33 last Saturday night and La Serna 42-39 this past Monday night. V.C. will begin Olympic League action tonight with a home game against Maranatha High before travelling to Whittier Christian High on Tuesday.

“Jordan embodies what leadership looks like; what servant leadership looks like,” Roldan said. “She leads from behind. She’s the first one to be in the gym and she’s the last one leave. You can’t teach that and I’m just very grateful that we have someone like that, that can pass that on to the next generation of girls basketball.”

The first eight games of the season have been special for Roldan, who replaced Gene Bras as the team’s new head coach and becomes the program’s fourth head coach in as many years and seventh since the 2007-2008 season. Roldan graduated from V.C. in 2012 and was part of the boys program for three years before switching to the girls program.

“Valley Christian girls basketball has a history of winning,” Roldan said. “Coach [Eleanor] Dykstra did a terrific job back in the day and being an alum here, I wanted to give back and I think the best way of giving back is pouring out to what I love here; what made a difference in my life. Basketball is that tool for me and I’m excited for the rest of this year.”