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BOYS BASKETBALL – Norwalk bends but does not break against John Glenn, claims fourth straight win over city rival

John Glenn High junior Sebastian Figueroa battles with Norwalk High sophomore Zack Powell in this past Monday night’s city rivalry game, Powell scored 16 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had six assists and two steals as the Lancers knocked off the Eagles 48-40. Figueroa led all scorers with 20 points and had 11 rebounds. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.


January 27, 2022

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

Norwalk High has dominated its city rival John Glenn High in virtually every sport, and when it comes to boys basketball, it’s the Dec. 20, 2017 meeting that still gets to head coach Brent Campanelli. It was then that the Eagles escaped with a 55-51 victory, the only time the sixth-year head coach has been defeated by Glenn.

After postponements from Dec. 16 and again on Jan. 12 prevented the teams from playing, they finally faced each other this past Monday and Norwalk prevailed for the 11th time out of the last 12 meetings, 48-40, in a contest that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.

“One thing that we try to preach is it’s not necessarily okay to lose games, but just don’t lose this one,” Campanelli said. “You just do whatever you have to do to win this one. And so, that felt good. Guys are passionate; they’ve been asking daily, ‘are we going to make that game up, when are we going to play’? It just took us a little bit longer than anticipated. But they’re a good team. He’s a good coach and he’s trying to build and has got them playing hard. They have some pieces in there that are really going to help them.”

While Glenn never led in the game, it tied the Lancers twice in the opening quarter and stayed within three points until a three-pointer from junior Aytin Reyes gave the Lancers a 13-7 lead with 41 seconds left. That was part of a 10-1 run that extended 61 seconds into the second quarter.

A recurring problem plagued the Eagles throughout the game, especially in the first half as they were three of 16 from the field. A lot of the missed shots were easy layups and Norwalk grabbed only seven defensive rebounds in the half, which ended with the hosts leading 20-16.

“Second chance points, again, has been a problem for us all year,” said Glenn first-year head coach Sam Abebe. “Missed free throws, missed open shots…I don’t think we’re understanding how to win yet, and unfortunately, it’s biting us now.

“It just comes down to watching the ball,” he continued. “We watch the ball way too much, and this has been a problem all year. Some of these guys don’t understand that. We don’t have a 6’7” guy here that can go in and get a rebound. It has to be a collective unit game-rebounding, which is what I call it. Everyone has to crash the glass and unfortunately, our guards watch our bigs and our bigs once in a while are tired of banging and they start watching. It’s just too much standing and watching.”

If Glenn, ranked eighth in the CIF-Southern Section Division 5A poll, had any chance of making a comeback, it was quickly dashed in the third quarter when the Lancers began the stanza going on a 9-2 run, thanks to senior Zack Powell, who had four points and an assist and Reyes, who had two assists and a three-pointer. With the score 29-18 the teams spent the last 3:23 of the quarter trading baskets. In fact, Norwalk connected on its final six baskets of the quarter while Glenn was true on three of its final four attempts in the quarter.

“I think we just stuck to the game plan and kept trying to get balls to the right guys; get balls to the playmakers and they made the plays,” Campanelli said. “Ultimately, we can work on it and structure them, but the young guys have to be in there with the confidence to make the plays, and they did.”

“We just couldn’t get stops,” Abebe said. “It just seemed like when we would start running our offense to perfection, and we would get layups, we would turn right back and give them a layup. Unfortunately, we don’t have the firepower offensively to be trading baskets with a team, even though Norwalk isn’t a great offensive team.”

Norwalk entered the fourth quarter up by 10 points and even though Glenn junior Sebastian Figueroa scored his team’s first two baskets of the stanza on putbacks, the earlier misses haunted the Eagles. After going seven of 26 from the field in the first three quarters, Glenn (9-10 overall) was six of 15 in the fourth quarter. Figueroa led all scorers with a season-high 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while senior Richard Ramos added 12 points, had three rebounds and two steals as four of the six players who suited up scored. And even though Glenn fell for the fourth straight time, Abebe hopes his team sent a message for future rivalry games.

“It’s exciting, of course,” Abebe said. “What I hope from the young kids is at Waite [Middle School] and these other small schools and junior highs is we only played with six guys tonight. There are a lot of guys on the bench at Norwalk that could have helped us win this game. I really hope that, even though we didn’t win the game, we lost by eight with only six guys. If we get one or two guys on this bench that live in this city, they can come to our school and they can help us out. In the future, we can dominate this [rivalry]. I hope the narrative about Glenn has changed today; that we’re not a walkover.”

“They’ve always been structured, and coaches have done a good job,” Campanelli said. “They just haven’t had the bodies or the playmakers or the skill guys. Not to say that we get them, but it’s just kind of always been a slight advantage. They have two or three guys over there that have really got some ball skills, for sure, and [Figueroa] really gave us fits. He had a hell of a game.”

Powell led the Lancers with 16 points, 10 boards, six assists and two steals. He has scored in double figures in 11 of the first 21 games and was Norwalk’s leading scorer for the 10th time. Reyes came off the bench to add 14 points while sophomore Yahir Martinez chipped in with eight points.

“That’s great to see,” Campanelli said of Powell. “He has to have a big game. We’ve put a lot on him for being a young guy, we’ve put a lot on Robert for being a young guy, Yahir and even our juniors. But I think Zack’s definitely kind of the focal; the one that’s going to have to make us go. He needed a big game and he had it.”

The regular season ends on Thursday for Glenn and Norwalk and if either one, or both, aspire to make the playoffs, they will have to face major challenges to get there. Glenn hosted Whitney High this past Wednesday and will entertain Pioneer High tonight. Entering the week, the Eagles were in fourth place in the 605 League with a 1-2 record, half a game behind Whitney (2-2) and a game and a half behind Cerritos (3-1). Because of the postponements of games this season, the league has decided to count the first meeting with each other for its official league standings. Thus, wins over Whitney and Pioneer would put the Eagles in the postseason for the first time since 2014. Glenn is also scheduled to visit Whitney on Sunday, go to Pioneer on Monday, host Oxford Academy on Tuesday and travel to Cerritos on Thursday.

“Man, this week is going to make or break Glenn,” Abebe said. “What we have to hope for now is this game doesn’t linger on, and we can move on past this. This is a big game for the city of Norwalk, but this isn’t a game that can affect our playoff hopes. It’s going to be these next two games with Whitney and Pioneer. We just need to get better at executing.”

Norwalk knocked off Bellflower High 50-38 this past Tuesday night, improving to 8-14 overall and 1-1 in the Suburban League. The Lancers visited La Mirada High this past Wednesday and will host Mayfair High tonight, La Mirada on Tuesday and Bellflower on Thursday.

“The two against La Mirada and one against Mayfair are going to be a grind,” Campanelli said. “The two against Bellflower are going to be tough. We have to win three of them. If we can somehow win three games, then we’re going to get in. And if we don’t, then we’re not.”