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605 LEAGUE GIRLS BASKETBALL – Whitney girls feel at home on homecoming night with furious fourth quarter rally, edges Cerritos

Cerritos High senior Francine Carrillo (right) is heavily guarded by junior Kylie Wang of Whitney High in last Friday’s key 605 League game. Whitney rallied with 14 straight points to end the game and picked up a 34-32 victory, leaving the Wildcats all alone in first place. Wang scored 11 points, had eight rebounds and three steals. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

January 18, 2022

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

The theme for Whitney High’s homecoming last Friday was ‘No Place Like Home’ and for the girls basketball team, the Wildcats made the most of their fifth home game of the season. Whitney trailed Cerritos High by 12 points less than a minute into the fourth quarter, then went on a remarkable 14-0 run to end the game, stealing a 34-32 victory that left the hosts all alone in first place in the 605 League.

Whitney had lost its first three home games, then knocked off Oxford Academy 64-23 on Jan. 10 for its first home victory. Even with the comeback win, head coach Myron Jacobs said he is still waiting to see his team at its full potential. Whitney shot six of 33 from the field through the first three quarters, before connecting on five field goals in the final 5:34 of the contest.

“I think we just started off bad and playing against a Glenn or an Artesia right before those types of games doesn’t help us as a program because it [puts] the girls in a relaxed situation,” said Jacobs. “I really believe that we needed to refocus mentally and understand that as long as we keep them in striking distance, we would be able to come back and win.”

On the other side of the court, it was the start that Cerritos head coach Marcus Chinen was looking for. The Dons began the game scoring the first five points and held the lead until Whitney sophomore sensation Haylie Wang scored the game-winner off a pass from her sister, junior Kylie Wang, with 47.8 seconds left in the game. Haylie Wang would add a free throw with 20.3 seconds left for the final point of the game.

“We wanted to put pressure on them, but we just said we have to be pretty much perfect,” said Chinen. “Not completely perfect, but we had to be perfect in order for us to get through that game with a win. Unfortunately, we played three quarters and a minute well, then after that, we kind of didn’t do our job. It went the other way.”

The fourth quarter rally began with senior Rachel Song scoring her lone basket of the game, then a free throw from freshman Mady Macaraeg and a three-point play from Kylie Wang. Chinen would call a timeout with 3:58 remaining, but after a missed shot, Kylie Wang would tack on two-straight baskets to make it 32-30 with 2:25 left. 

Chinen called his last timeout with 9.2 seconds remaining, but freshman Cameron Lacorte’s shot from senior Kaitlyn Sugita would not go in at the buzzer, sending the Dons into a third place tie with Oxford Academy.

“I think it came from just believing, seeing that hey, we’re not playing our best game, and we still won,” said Jacobs. “Our goal was to stay within striking distance, and I think we did a very good job of doing that.”

While Whitney (11-10, 4-0) was having its way in the final quarter, the Dons missed their last 14 shots taken after going 14 of 44 before that. 

“The ball just didn’t fall for us,” said Chinen. “We had the looks; we had the shots. But it just didn’t fall for us. They made a couple of rebounds and a couple of lay-ups here and there. It just didn’t go our way.”

The shooting may not have been the best throughout the game, but the Dons (8-10 overall, 2-2) were crashing the glass early on, collecting 20 rebounds in the first half with seven coming on the offensive end. But scoring would be at a premium as junior Mailee Dizon was the team’s scoring leader by halftime with four points. That would be the same total for Macaraeg and Kylie Wang through the first half. 

It was more of the same in the third quarter, but the Wildcats were showing signs of life when Layla Lacorte scored five straight points to make it 25-20 with 1:58 left in the stanza. The Dons responded with seven straight points to take their largest lead of the game after Dizon’s basket.

Haylie Wang continued to be one of the top 10th graders in Southern California, scoring a game-high 12 points while grabbing 10 rebounds, blocking three shots and picking up two steals. Kylie Wang added 11 points, eight rebounds and three steals while Macaraeg, who is the next up and coming star for the program, finished with six rebounds and five points. 

“I thought Cerritos did a great job coming out and playing hard against us,” said Jacobs. “They outrebounded us in the first half. I thought that their intensity was higher than ours. I thought their effort was more than ours. I think that Marcus got them ready to play us.”

“Haylie had a bad game and there’s no excuse on her end,” he later said. “I’m pretty sure she’ll have a better game [next time]. She didn’t do well. We didn’t have her shooting.”  

“She’s good; she’s really good,” said Chinen. “She did what she was supposed to do. She grabbed the rebounds and got the putbacks. When she went one on one, she was able to score on us. She did her job.”

Another freshman to keep an eye on in the future is Cameron Lacorte, who led the Dons with nine points. Dizon had eight points and five rebounds while senior Francine Carrillo had seven rebounds and six each from Sugita and junior Mia Rivera. But foul trouble plagued Cerritos in the second half with Lacorte picking up her third and fourth fouls in the fourth quarter and Carrillo her third foul late in the game.

“Sometimes, with those players, it gets in the back of their minds,” said Chinen. “I know a couple of times, when we had to go to a certain type of defense, they kind of backed off a little bit. But all in all, we let them know, especially Cameron. We said when it comes down to [then end of] the game, if you do happen to foul out, you have to foul them to stop the clock. Whatever it is, we do have girls that are coming off the bench that they can fill [her] spot.”

Since the league was formed, Whitney now owns a 6-3 record against Cerritos with five of those wins coming by a combined 22 points. Last season, the two, and Pioneer, were tri-champs in the league.

“It’s a good rivalry,” said Chinen. “I don’t know what it is. When we get over there at Whitney, I don’t know if it’s a different look of the gym or whatever it is.”

Whitney, which ended the first round of league play this past Wednesday at Pioneer High, will host John Glenn High on Friday and Artesia High on Wednesday while the Dons, who finished the first half of league action at Oxford Academy, will host Artesia on Friday and go to Pioneer on Wednesday.