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605 LEAGUE GIRLS BASKETBALL – Whitney picks up ugly win to capture first 605 League title


February 3, 2022

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter


To say that there has been parity in girls basketball in the 605 League would be an understatement. Entering this season and based on who was coming back from last season, any one of four schools-Artesia High, Cerritos High, Pioneer High and Whitney High could have won the title.

Oxford Academy, followed by Cerritos and Pioneer have finished in first place in the first three years of the league’s existence and now, you can add Whitney to that list. The Wildcats blew a four-point lead with 51.1 seconds left in regulation against Artesia last Saturday afternoon, then survived some unfortunate events that went against the host Pioneers to come away with a 44-40 overtime victory. The win improved Whitney’s league mark to 4-0 as it clinched no worse than a tie for the league crown. Artesia dropped its second league game in four tries at the time, thus erasing any possibilities of a potential three-way tie had it gone the other way.

“Right now, to be honest with you, I’m not even worried about that no more,” said Whitney head coach Myron Jacobs. “After watching today’s game and after watching yesterday’s game, we need to be in the gym Monday through Sunday because we missed a lot of lay-ups. We had terrible passing. We basically played the same game we played yesterday against Cerritos. The only thing that bailed us out is Artesia didn’t have enough firepower to put us away.

“I truly believe Artesia’s coach did a good job preparing for us, but I also thought that we beat ourselves in this game,” he continued. “I thought we took ourselves mentally out of the game, not focusing on today’s game, but instead worrying about yesterday’s game.”
With 35.8 seconds left in regulation, Artesia senior Esja Shriver scored on a pass from senior Sydney McKee, who then scored and was fouled with 6.3 seconds left. McKee missed the ensuing free throw, but still had a chance to win the game five seconds later. After first-year head coach Mollie Williams called two timeouts with 2.1 seconds left, senior Sha’mira Barnes was fouled one second later, but also missed her free throw.

In overtime, the Wildcats built a five-point lead a minute in on a basket and three-pointer from junior Layla Lacorte before McKee fed a pass to senior Aminah Roberts who drained a trifecta with half a minute remaining. Williams immediately called for a timeout, which was not granted by the officials and sophomore Alyssa Truong’s basket sealed the deal for Whitney.

“As far as I know, it’s legal to where you’re able to call a timeout after the basket falls,” Williams said. “I don’t know why [the timeout] wasn’t called. But it wasn’t called, so we had to move on from there. I think that missed call led to some momentum for Whitney, which gave them a bucket and we had to climb back from something that we shouldn’t have because I clearly called a timeout.”

Whitney had lost to Cerritos the previous night 56-36 in a game that did not factor in the league standings and the fatigue showed against Artesia as both teams combined for 12 points in the first quarter. In fact, the first half featured four ties and no lead changes as Whitney led by no more than four points at any time.

The Pioneers took their first lead of the game one minute into the second half on a Barnes basket and outscored Whitney 11-6 in the stanza. The tide shifted back to Whitney within the first two minutes of the fourth quarter when it went on a 7-0 run to lead 28-25 with 6:13 left in regulation. Whitney wouldn’t score for the next 3:18 but the Pioneers could only score once during that time. Lacorte would drain a perimeter shot with 79 seconds left to give her team a 34-29 lead before Artesia staged its rally.

“I’m proud of our girls,” Williams said “We had a lot of ups and downs, as everyone else. But I can only speak about ours. I am proud of them pushing through. We are still short a couple [of girls] and they fought their way through all the adversity that happened in this game.”

Both teams were playing shorthanded as Whitney, with eight players present, was missing junior Kayla Hamakawa while the Pioneers, who suited up seven players, were without its big rebounder, junior Samerika Young and had senior Jordan Manning absent for most of the third quarter with foul trouble.

“Her presence not being in the game I think drew us down a bit,” Williams said of Manning. “But our girls continued to fight and in the third quarter, we were able to pick it up. So, it gave us an opportunity to use a little bit more of our guards and do a little bit of a faster paced tempo when we’re playing defense.”

“For us, we don’t have our true point guard, who is the captain and settles everyone down,” Jacobs said. “If you have a [Hamakawa] here, you don’t have a problem with offense. I thought my girls did a good job fighting back. But we’re also a little beat up and I think right now, mentally is where we’re beat up at.”

The two teams met again this past Tuesday in the regularly scheduled game and Whitney came away victorious again, this time 57-38 as Lacorte scored 23 points while sophomore Kylie Wang added 18 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and three steals. The win improved Whitney’s mark to 17-3 overall as the Wildcats hosted Oxford Academy on Feb. 3 for their homecoming game. Whitney then hosts Pioneer tonight to end the regular season.

Artesia dropped to 13-9 overall and hosted Pioneer om Feb. 3 to end the regular season. Those two teams haven’t faced each other yet and a win by Artesia would lock down third place for the Pioneers.