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2022 GLENN-NORWALK GIRLS VARSITY BASKETBALL CLASSIC – Injury-riddled Whitney group soars past Whittier in third place game

Whitney High sophomore Haylie Wang goes up for one of her four second half shot attempts against Whittier High in the third place game of the 2022 Glenn-Norwalk Girls Varsity Basketball Classic. Wang scored 15 points and grabbed four rebounds as she was named a tournament most valuable player. In the four-game tournament, she scored 58 points. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

By Loren Kopff• @LorenKopff on Twitter

Last season, the Whitney High girls basketball team had nine girls on its roster but was paced by its starting group throughout most of the season and got a piece of the 605 League title with two other teams. This season, the Wildcats have 10 girls on the team, but head coach Myron Jacobs has had to do some work just to find a starting lineup each game.

Because of injuries, Whitney has had a different starting five in eight of its last nine games but wrapped up the four-game 2022 Glenn-Norwalk Girls Varsity Basketball Classic with an emphatic 49-21 win over Whittier High last Saturday night to claim third place. It marked the second time the team has yielded 21 points or fewer as the Wildcats went 3-1 in the event.

“First off, Whittier did a great job competing,” said Jacobs. “I’m really good friends with [Whittier] coach [Willie] Pittman over there. He’s got a good thing going over there at Whittier. I just think my girls came out and executed the job.”

The outcome was never in doubt as Whitney (5-4) scored the first nine points of the game, led 18-3 after the first quarter and 28-10 at the half. But the story of the game, the tournament and the season has been the injuries the ‘Cats have piled up. Junior Kylie Wang has been battling an ankle injury but was able to start and lead the team with 16 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and two blocks. Freshman sensation Madelyn Macaraeg has been playing with an injured knee but found a way to score 10 points and pull down eight points. She has scored in double figures in every game thus far. 

Then there’s sophomore Haylie Wang, who in a perfect world would be a starter every game. But she came off the bench against the Cardinals and was just as effective, scoring 15 points with four rebounds and picking up a tournament most valuable player award.

“Every girl has upped their game,” said Jacobs. “Most importantly, I didn’t feel the need to really start Haylie. Honestly, Haylie didn’t even have to play the game for it to be the same results. Throughout this week, we’ve had different lineup changes. We’re still having some health issues and injuries that’s [preventing] us from having our complete starting five out there. But I take my hat off to the girls on the bench that have stepped up.”

In the first game of the tournament, Whitney blasted South El Monte High 70-15 behind a career-high 15 points from sophomore Rachel Moyher, 14 points from Macaraeg and 13 more from Haylie Wang. The next night, Whitney knocked off Northview High 42-28 as Haylie Wang had 14 points, nine rebounds and six steals while her sister added 12 points, seven rebounds, seven steals and four assists. That game featured 10 lead changes in the first half with the largest lead by either team being three points. The ‘Cats would win the fourth quarter by a 12-0 margin. 

Last Friday night, Whitney fell to Los Altos High 44-42 on a buzzer-beater despite 16 points from Haylie Wang and 10 points from Macaraeg. In fact, of the other three losses, Whitney has been blown out just once, which was a 21-point setback to Lakewood High. The other two losses have each been by five points, further illustrating that with a healthy team, Whitney might be sitting at 7-2 or 8-1.

“I tell my kids right now, everything is not going as planned, but let’s not worry ourselves,” said Jacobs. “We know what we have and once everyone gets back healthy and we get everybody back, I truly believe we’re going to be one of those teams that you have to have on your radar. But until then, we have to continue to do what we’re doing. Just next girl up. That’s the mentality we have right now.”

The early headline this season for the ‘Cats has been the superb play of Macaraeg, who has been everything as advertised in her first nine high school games. She has scored 10 points five times and had a career-high 23 at Mountain View High in the third game, and all this playing hurt.

“Her first game, I believe she had a double-double; 18 points, 11 rebounds,” said Jacobs. “In her second game, she had 10 points, 12 rebounds. The kid is pretty much playing on one leg. She’s not 100 percent [healthy], but once she gets there, that’s going to be a kid that you’re going to have to put on your radar. There’s no way you’re going to play us and not think about Maddy.”

Whitney began pool play action of the Sunny Hills Tournament this past Monday with a 69-28 loss to San Juan Hills High. Whitney then faced Sonora High this past Wednesday and will meet with Woodbridge High today before visiting Warren High on Wednesday.

One of the co-hosts of the tournament, Norwalk High, was completely outplayed in the second half against Fountain Valley High last Saturday in a 64-38 defeat in the seventh place game. The Lancers scored the last seven points of the first half to trail 27-26 at the break but were outscored 37-12 in the second half while shooting five of 33 from the field.

“I think this week, with the tournament, I think our second [halves] have been our worst ones within the last few games,” said Norwalk head coach Ashley Baclaan. “I know we’ve had some games earlier in the season where the first half might have not been too well, but we pick it up in the second half.”

Norwalk was still in the game 65 seconds into the second before the Barons went on a 10-0 run to lead 40-28. It would not score again until 2:16 was left in the third quarter, a three-point play from junior Keilani Ganancial. Moments later, with Fountain Valley up 43-35, it made sure the Lancers wouldn’t mount another rally as the Barons went on a 15-0 run.

Ganancial, who was named the team’s all-tournament MVP, scored 16 points while senior Amanda Rangel added nine points, four rebounds and two steals. But for Ganancial, she is picking up where she left off last season and scored at least 26 points in five of the first six games of the season.

“She’s definitely one of the leaders that we’re looking to this season, and she’s definitely helped us get through all of that,” said Baclaan.

The Lancers began the tournament with a 38-37 upset win over Rowland High before falling to Whittier 57-32 and Huntington Beach High 44-25. Norwalk then lost to La Habra High 60-28 this past Monday to drop to 6-5 after the fast start to the season. The purple and gold visited San Gabriel High on Dec. 15 and go to Montebello High today, Estancia High on Saturday and Segerstrom High on Tuesday before hosting Sierra Vista High on Wednesday. Norwalk ends its long string of games with a trip to Godinez High on Thursday.

Whitney High head coach Myron Jacobs receives the third-place trophy of the 2022 Glenn-Norwalk Girls Varsity Basketball Classic from former Glenn standout Sharae Mot. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

“That Rowland game was definitely a great win,” said Baclaan. “Actually, all the teams we played in the tournament are usually not teams we play during the preseason. I know through all the years I’ve watched them…to have a good first half against Fountain Valley or even to compete with and hold down a quarter or two with those programs is a good thing for us.

“I think maybe if we could have made more shots or even free throws, games could have been a little closer,” she continued. “When I was looking at our Huntington Beach stats, we missed 10 free throws, or nine free throws. Had we made those, it could have been a different game.”

The other co-host in the tournament, John Glenn High, lost to Mary Star of the Sea High 41-15 to kick off the first of seven games last Saturday. The Stars scored the first 10 points of the game, and the Eagles didn’t score until there were 61 seconds left in the opening quarter. Junior Rosemary Felix led Glenn with eight points and despite the third blowout loss of the tournament, all was not negative for the Eagles.

“We won a game; that was the big positive,” said Glenn head coach Eric Peterson. “We didn’t win any games last year in our own tournament. That was a good plus. I think the girls learned a lot from even some of the games that we lost. We filmed a lot of it, so we’ll be doing a lot of film sessions and try to improve.”

Glenn lost to runner-up Los Altos 85-9 in the first game and Whittier Christian High 62-22 last Thursday as junior Emily Garcia scored eight points while Felix and sophomore Aaliyah Ramirez each scored seven points. Ramirez also had 11 rebounds and three steals. The Eagles bounced back to blast South El Monte 31-7 last Friday, marking the team’s third win in the first 10 games. Last season, the Eagles lost all 21 games.

“This year, I think they’re a little more skilled, and they’re a little more disciplined than last year,” said Peterson of his returning players. “Defensively, I think we’re a much better team than we were last year. We lost two games this year, already, in which we were leading at halftime. My team is a lot more competitive this year than we were last year.”

Glenn would edge Blair High 21-20 this past Monday and has two more games the rest of the month, both of which were this past week. For Glenn to be even better once 605 League action begins next month, it has to improve tremendously on one thing.

“We turn the ball over quite a bit and that’s something that we definitely need to improve on,” said Peterson. “I still think our defense has improved, basically, and that’s where we’re going to try to make our bones on. As long as we can play good defense, I think we can stay competitive in a lot of games.”