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NEWS AND NOTES – Valley Christian basketball teams blown out by Heritage Christian in Olympic League opener

@LorenKopff on Twitter

The Valley Christian High boys basketball team hasn’t had much luck with Heritage Christian High over the past seven seasons, losing nine straight to the Warriors and going 2-12 against them since 2016. Before that, V.C. had gone 14-4 since 2005.

So, who knew what to expect as the Olympic League began this past Tuesday with the Defenders, ranked 14th in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2A poll hosting Heritage Christian. After a very close first quarter in which the lead changed hands three times and no lead being greater than four points, the Warriors exploded for a solid second quarter and blew the game open in the second half, running away with a 79-58 win.

“We played well for a quarter and a half, probably,” said V.C. first-year head coach Jason Flowers. “I thought the big difference when they made their run was that we turned the basketball over and gave them easy baskets. Anytime you do that against a team that’s good, you have no chance of winning.”

The Defenders led 18-17 after the first quarter before seeing the Warriors put on a second quarter display that included a flurry of dunks and lay-ups compliments of Seven Bahati and Tae Simmons. Those two would combine to go 10 of 12 from the field in the quarter and score 20 points over that time. Still, V.C. was down by four points with 1:48 left in the half. That’s when the wheels came off and the Warriors closed out the half on an 8-0 run to lead 43-31 at the break. Then back to back three pointers from Dillan Shaw in a span of 40 seconds early in the third quarter increased the lead to 51-35.

“They’re hard to defend when you have those types of players,” said Flowers. “But even bigger, you’re giving those players lay-ups and dunks. Against a team like that, you try to make it as tough as possible and giving up lay-ups off turnovers or straight line penetration…that’s the exact opposite of making it tough.”

V.C. wouldn’t get closer than 14 points after those perimeter shots, that coming on a steal and basket from junior Myles Harvey with 3:20 left in the third. He would score a dozen points while junior Jacob Bayla led the Defenders with 16 points and junior Gavin Stahl coming off the bench to add 11 points. V.C. shot 19 of 51 from the field and had 12 rebounds while the Warriors were as hot as any team could be. 

Heritage Christian shot 34 of 49 from the field with Simmons, who led everyone with 23 points, missing just one of his 12 shots. Giovanni Goree scored 15 points and was six of nine from the field while Bahati (13 points) and Shaw (12 points) combined to go 10 of 15 from the field.

V.C., which had gone 3-1 in the Orange Tournament to end December, dropped to 11-7 overall as it will visit Maranatha High on Friday, host Loyola High on Saturday in non-league action, then go to Whittier Christian High on Tuesday.

“I am pleased with the growth of the young men that are in the program, and I think that’s always the goal; for them to continue to get better,” said Flowers. “It shows up on the basketball court because that’s obviously when everyone is in the gym and they see what’s going on. I think the process really happens every single day, and kind of seeing them mature and seeing them learn what it takes to be successful, that’s what this while deal is all about.”

Preceding the game, the girls never got into any rhythm and were blasted by the Warriors 56-21 for their seventh straight loss. The Defenders shot 15 percent from the field and tied for their second lowest point total of the season.

“I think my girls came out flat,” said V.C. head coach Ariel Sanchez. “I tried to tell them it’s all about the energy. I have a young team and I think they were just a little nervous. Not having a starter was very tough. Finding out minutes before the game is a very big decision. You come up with a gameplan this whole week and then you go to execute it and one of your main starters is not there. That was a tough adjustment we had to make a couple of minutes before the game started.”

Sanchez is referring to freshman sensation Jocelyn Tani who injured her ankle in the Dec. 29 West Ranch High game. Before that, Tani had scored in double figures in right of the 15 games she had played in. The Defenders never led in the game and scored five points in the opening quarter, the first coming from junior Jada Thompson with 5:25 left and a three-pointer from senior Meghan Patterson with 1:08 left in the stanza.

Heritage Christian began the second quarter on a 10-0 run to put the game way as it built a quick 20-5 lead. And even though the hosts would score the last six points of the first half, they had turned the ball over 12 times in the first 16 minutes. That number would nearly double in the third quarter alone as the Defenders were outscored 16-2 with the only points not coming until nearly the midway point of the stanza, the only two-pointer from senior Carissa Kamstra.

“We don’t have that many strong ball handlers,” said Sanchez. “So, it was kind of up to people who weren’t really ball handlers. They were probably discouraged coming out of halftime and just played flat.”

Kamstra led V.C. with 12 points with seven of them coming from the free throw line. She also grabbed seven rebounds while Patterson had five points, five rebounds and two assists. V.C., which shot six of 41 in the game, fell to 5-12 overall and have lost seven straight games. It will travel to Maranatha on Friday, entertain St. Joseph High on Saturday and go to Whittier Christian on Tuesday.

“I think we just need to work on scoring more and getting the ball in the basket,” said Sanchez. “That’s what I told them at the beginning of the fourth quarter. I said, ‘hey, we’re obviously not going to win this game, but let’s just try to get the ball in the basket as much as we can and have fun’.”

In other basketball action Artesia High hosted Cerritos High this past Wednesday to open play in the 605 League. The Cerritos girls (7-8, 1-0), which snapped a six-game losing streak, blasted Artesia 62-13 as junior Mailee Dizon had a career-high 22 points while seniors Doris Chen and Kaitlyn Sugita each added 10 points. Artesia (2-14, 0-1) was led by sophomore Ashlee Chung (eight points). 

Following the game, the Artesia boys posted a 51-20 win to improve to 8-7, 1-0 while Cerritos fell to 5-14, 0-1. Both Artesia teams will host Whitney High on Friday and Pioneer High on Tuesday while both Cerritos squads entertain Pioneer on Friday and John Glenn High on Tuesday. In addition, the Artesia boys travel to Kennedy High on Thursday.

In other 605 League action, both Glenn teams visit Oxford Academy on Friday while both Whitney teams host Oxford Academy on Tuesday. The Glenn boys will also visit Firebaugh High on Saturday.

In Gateway League action, the La Mirada High boys are off on Friday but will host Dominguez High on Wednesday while in Mid-Cities League action, the Gahr High boys visit Firebaugh on Friday while the girls travel to Dominguez. Also on Friday, the Norwalk girls visit La Mirada while on Wednesday, the Gahr boys host Bellflower High on Wednesday and the Norwalk boys travel to Warren High while the La Mirada girls host Gahr and the Norwalk girls are home to Firebaugh.