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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW – Whitney’s defense comes out strong in first quarter before Ayala takes control for first-round win

June 3, 2021

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter


The Whitney High girls basketball team came ready to play in its CIF-Southern Section Division 3A first round playoff game against 11th ranked Ayala High last Thursday. But it’s how you finish that counts and the Lady Wildcats couldn’t sustain the same intensity in the second half.

After leading for most of the first quarter and trailing by three points at halftime, Whitney was outscored 28-20 in the second half and were eliminated by the Bulldogs 54-43. The Lady Wildcats end their season at 10-7. Seniors Kimberly Hosoda and Julianna Lee each had four points in the first quarter and all five starters combined to grab 10 rebounds as the hosts built a 14-8 lead with 3:26 left in the stanza.

But Ayala went on a 10-0 run and Whitney would be without the services of freshman Kylie Wang, who picked up her third foul with 26 seconds remaining in the opening quarter. After collecting four rebounds, two steals and two points in the first quarter, she would sit out the remainder of the half and finish the game with nine points.

“I felt like they came with more aggression than our girls did, and unfortunately aggression is something we’ve been working with the girls all season,” said Whitney assistant coach Ryan Lacorte. “Tonight is really when they needed to be the most aggressive that they could be. But the Ayala girls wanted it more. They went after the rebounding and our girls, for some reason, they were always caught out of position to box out and get the rebound.”

Whitney tried to stay within a possession or two in the second quarter and tied the contest 24 seconds into the second half on a three-pointer from sophomore Layla Lacorte. But Ayala went on a game-changing 13-0 run to seal the victory. Whitney trailed by as many as 19 points early in the fourth quarter and was outrebounded 31-23.

“It almost seemed like our energy kind of dropped after the first quarter, and it led to us not being where we’re supposed to be defensively,” Ryan Lacorte said. “As a result, they were able to get those rebounds over us.

“I don’t think Kylie has been in foul trouble all season,” he later said. “And for her to get into foul trouble in easily our biggest game, was a terrible blow. It wasn’t the way we had it planned out. We actually planned to put them in foul trouble by attacking their best players. But the whistles didn’t go our way. We were attacking and we were being called for offensive fouls.”

Layla Lacorte, who made her first start since twisting her right ankle at Cerritos High on Apr. 23, scored a season-high 18 points while Lee had seven points and five steals and Hosoda 10 rebounds.

Elsewhere in the division. Valley Christian High stunned sixth seeded Upland High 46-30 this past Wednesday night in a quarterfinal victory. The Lady Defenders, who have won five straight games to improve to 11-9, will travel to Ayala on Saturday. The Bulldogs knocked off Orange Vista High 46-37 this past Wednesday night. It will mark the first time since the 2016-2017 season that V.C. has advanced to the semifinals. In that season, it lost in the Division 4AA championship game. Before that, the last trip to the semifinals was in the 2010-2011 season.

V.C. forced half a dozen turnovers in the first quarter as it led 12-3 after the first quarter. Both teams combined to score 10 points in the second quarter before Upland went on a 6-0 run to begin the second half. But the Lady Defenders responded with a 9-0 run to lead the remainder of the way, then put the game away with an 11-0 run in the middle portion of the fourth quarter.

If it wasn’t V.C.’s suffocating defense, forcing 15 turnovers for the game and limiting Upland to 27 field goal attempts through three periods, then it was the three-point shooting the entire game that did in the third place finishers from the Baseline League. The Lady Defenders were nine of 26 from beyond the arc with senior Faith Boss hitting five of them as part of her 16 points. Senior Jordan Ebalo led everyone with 18 points and 10 rebounds while senior Makani Kane was true on a pair of three-pointers and had a pair of steals.


The lone area team that is still alive is V.C. as the third seeded Defenders knocked off Covina High 62-56 this past Tuesday to move to tonight’s Division 3AA semifinals where it will visit second seeded Aquinas High. The Defenders (13-6) have not been this far since the 2014-2015 season and will be seeking the school’s first trip in the finals since claiming the 2007-2008 Division IV-A crown. Aquinas, the champions of the Ambassador League, have lost once in 18 games.


The top two teams in Division 4 will face each other as top ranked Marina High will host No. 2 V.C. on Saturday for the championship. The Defenders are 16-0 and are going for the school’s fourth boys volleyball divisional title since 2007 and first since 2016.


La Mirada High captured the program’s first divisional championship since 2016 after defeating Saugus High 2-1 in double overtime last Saturday afternoon in Division 2 action. The Lady Matadores previously had gone back to back in the 2015 and 2016 seasons and won a state championship in 2016. The team’s season came to an end this past Tuesday in a 1-0 loss to Del Norte High in the first round of the Southern California Division II Regionals. La Mirada, which was the top seeded team in the regionals, lost for the first time all season and finished a remarkable season at 15-1-2 while allowing three goals and posting 15 shutouts.


The playoff brackets were released this past Sunday and the first round began on June 3 with Suburban League champion La Mirada High (18-11) hosting West Ranch High in Division 1. Gahr High (15-13), which finished in a tie for second place in the San Gabriel Valley League, will visit Moore League champion Long Beach Poly High today in Division 2.  V.C., which finished in second place in the Olympic League, will host Barstow High today in Division 6. The Defenders (18-5) are ranked seventh in the division.


Five area teams found out the path to a hopeful divisional championship last Saturday as first round action began on June 3. In Division 1, Gahr (14-6) visited Trinity League champion Mater Dei High and Suburban League champion La Mirada (19-5) hosted Cypress High, the second place representatives from the Empire League. In Division 3, 605 League champion Cerritos High (19-1) drew a home game against Patriot High, the second place team from the River Valley League while in Division 4, a pair of second place teams from their respective leagues met as Artesia High took its 6-5 record to Arlington High out of the River Valley League. Finally, in Division 5, Norwalk High (7-8), which finished in third place in the Suburban League, went to Fillmore High, the first place team from the Citrus Coast League. All second round games are on Saturday.


The Whitney High girls finished in 27th place out of 53 teams in the Division 3 Swimming Championships while the boys came in 33rd place out of 50 teams. Sophomore Ayden Min came in second place in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 5:06.63 and fifth place in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:55.89 while senior Alex Min placed sixth in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:44.62. Junior Kevin Lee finished in 13th place in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:01.01 and V.C. junior Luke Struiksma was third in the diving competition with a score of 444.85.