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BOYS BASKETBALL: Norwalk too much for short-handed Glenn team in low scoring city tussle

December 21, 2022

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

John Glenn High senior Michael Saucedo (#24) and Norwalk High senior Aytin Reyes go got a loose ball in last Thursday night’s city rivalry game. Norwalk was in control nearly the entire game, posting a 44-20 victory for the program’s fifth straight win over the Eagles. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer

The hardcourt version of the City of Norwalk rivalry has been a strange one over the past 15 seasons or so, clearly dominated by Norwalk High, which entered last Thursday night’s game with John Glenn High on a four-game winning streak against the Eagles. However, unlike the football games between the two rivals, the last five boys basketball meetings have been decided by a combined 11 points.

Once longtime members of the Suburban League, this was the third non-league meeting between the two and again, it went to Norwalk in a 44-20 rout. While the Lancers improved to 7-7, which is a little misleading, head coach Brent Campanelli says his team is better than the .500 mark but is what the record shows. Still, he’ll take the win as the purple and gold have won two straight to even its ledger for the fourth time this season.

“I think anytime you play in this rivalry, there are little bit of nerves,” said Campanelli. “We have not been shooting the ball great all year and it kind of continued tonight. We rarely rely on our defense and that kept us around. I just kept telling the guys, especially when guys would come out and they would sit on the bench, wait for a two-minute stretch or a three-minute stretch where we were able to turn them over and get some easy looks and have some confidence that way.”

It’s a completely different story on the other side of town as the Eagles, who not only lost for the fifth time in the past six games at the time after their magical 2021-2022 season, but lost senior Sebastian Figueroa, who is no longer at the school. Glenn suited up eight players for the game, but five have been consistent scorers all season. 

In fact, it was Glenn which was off and running to the tune of a 5-2 start nearly halfway through the first quarter. But Norwalk scored 11 straight points to close out the quarter and Glenn would never be the same the rest of the way.

“I think defensively, I thought we did a good job tonight,” said Glenn head coach Sam Abebe. “We didn’t adjust to the two guys up top. We kept overplaying on them when they weren’t doing much, and that’s what bit us in the third quarter.

“Offensively, we started off hot; a 5-2 start,” he continued. “But it just filtered away. Too many turnovers; too many live ball turnovers and a lot of missed lay-ups. Again, that’s coming out of concentration and fundamentals, and I don’t think tonight we had very many fundamentals.”

The Eagles may have started off hot, but the Lancers were even hotter with their shooting as junior Jakhari Ramey, then seniors Jesus Reyes and James McGarrah connected on first quarter three-pointers to end that 11-0 run. Then in a low-scoring second quarter in which teams combined for 14 points, Ramey hit another one to make it 16-7 within the first minute of the stanza. Less than two minutes later, sophomore Aaron Reyes got into the perimeter party with the last Norwalk points of the half with 5:33 before the break. 

In the first half, the Lancers missed their first six shots, then went seven of their next nine before not connecting on their last seven shots of the half. In addition, Norwalk was five of 14 from beyond the arc before halftime.

“When a team is playing a zone, it sort of opens up that opportunity and guys get wide-eyed and they like that shot,” said Campanelli. “We talked about it a lot this week of trying to find gaps and holes, especially in different parts of the zone. But they liked what they saw and they’re going to let those [shots] go. But it definitely wasn’t the initial game plan.”

With the low-scoring affair, Glenn was only down 21-11 at the break but couldn’t generate much in the second half, going two of 16 from the field, getting a three-pointer from junior Seyharmony Somchan at the five-minute mark of the third quarter, two free throws from senior Armando Arreola with 1:53 left in the third quarter and a three-pointer from Arreola with 5:28 left in the game. Norwalk would score the last 11 points of the game as it was 10 of 29 from the field after halftime.

“I think the biggest issue this year has been defensively,” said Abebe. “Tonight, it didn’t look like it was our issue. It was more offensively. But it’s like, we haven’t put a complete game together. We were up by 18 at halftime against West Covina the other night and [we gave it away].”

“I don’t know if it was nervousness, but it was definitely our urgency,” said Campanelli. “They’re coached up really hard and they play really hard. They’re not just going to go away. It’s a rivalry and those kids put in the work just like anybody else. It was urgency, but yeah, it took a while.”

With Figueroa, who was the spark plug in Glenn’s offense last season when he became eligible after transferring in no longer on the team, it’s been a ‘next man up’ situation with Arreola that next man. He scored a dozen points with seven rebounds and three steals while three other players combined for the other eight points. Arreola has scored at least 12 points in five of the first nine games.

“I think now our number one is going to be Armando,” said Abebe. “I thought tonight he came out well. He’s hurt right now; he had a strain in his back. But again, he showed a lot of heart and he did his best tonight on an injured leg. It is what it is.

“I think a lot of these guys haven’t really played a lot of competitive basketball,” he continued. “I think the more we play, the better we’ll look. I thought we looked a lot better tonight execution-wise. But again, it’s the small things.”

Norwalk was once again paced by Ramey, who had a game-high 18 points, the eighth time this season he has reached double figures and the eighth time he has led the team in scoring this season. Seniors Vincent Hernandez and Aytin Reyes each had seven rebounds while McGarrah added five boards.

“He’s buying in,” said Campanelli of Ramey. “He loves this team, and the guys love him too, and he really loves to put in the work. I think what he’s doing is he’s coming into his maturity. He’s coming into his age; he’s coming into his role and understanding what he’s capable of. He hasn’t played organized basketball until the year we came back from Covid.” 

Norwalk will take part in the Anaheim Colony Classic, beginning on Monday where it will face Newport Harbor High, Anaheim High and Orangewood Academy in pool play action before concluding the tournament on Dec. 30. Meanwhile, the Eagles, who knocked off Los Amigos High 53-40 last Friday, visit Montebello High on Friday before opening the Showcase on Shoemaker tournament on Monday with Norte Vista High.

“Again, it’s a learning experience,” said Abebe. “It’s a whole different team now with what has been going on this week for us. And it’s okay. I’m proud of the way they came out. I think [Norwalk] was the favorites tonight, but again, I thought [my team] battled and stuck around. We had a chance and that’s all that matters to me.”