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CIF-SS GIRLS BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS – Whitney runs out of steam in fourth quarter, season ends with loss to El Dorado

February 15, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter                                 

PLACENTIA-Whitney High head coach Myron Jacobs stacked his schedule in November and December so his team could be prepared for the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA playoffs. The co-605 League champions were battle tested throughout the season, although they went 7-11 outside of league play, including three tough losses to some of the best teams in Idaho.

Against third-ranked El Dorado High in a second round game last Saturday, the Wildcats were at a disadvantage in the size department but trailed by two points a dozen seconds into the fourth quarter on a steal and basket from freshman Mady Macaraeg. After that, it was all Golden Hawks as the third place representatives from the Crestview League went on 16-9 run that left Whitney on the short end of a 53-44 decision inside Joe Raya Gymnasium. The Wildcats conclude their season at 17-13.

“That’s all we had in the tank,” said Jacobs. “Playing against a team that’s bigger than you, you only can do what you can. I think for us, it’s hard when we have a bench full of young kids that we want to put in the game, but then we have experienced seniors who have been here before. I don’t regret any of this. El Dorado beat us fair and square; they worked hard [and] we worked hard.”

Whitney had trailed by as many as eight points twice in the third quarter, the last time with 2:41 remaining after 5’9” senior Avery Shirling hit the first of two free throws. That’s when the Wildcats had their best stretch of the game, going on a 6-0 run but getting one basket in the process. Then after Macaraeg’s steal, El Dorado got a three-pointer from Shirling, a two-pointer from 5’8” sophomore Bianca Carter and a trifecta from Kaylee Shimoda to stretch the lead to 45-35 with 5:10 left in the game.

Both teams would trade three-pointers and when Shirling scored with 2:48 remaining, the Golden Hawks had their largest lead of the game at 12 points. Whitney would get three baskets in the final 2:33 on five attempts from the field.

Although Whitney never led in the first quarter until sophomore Haylie Wang’s free throw with 38.4 seconds left made it 12-11, it never trailed by more than four points and were able to tie the hosts three times. The largest lead for Whitney increased to 17-13 thanks to a three-pointer and a two-pointer from seniors Layla Lacorte and Rachel Song respectively. However, the Golden Hawks ended the half on a 12-2 run.

“I thought we started off slow,” said Jacobs. “I thought we picked up momentum. Shots were falling from Layla. I just thought we blew a couple of defensive assignments and I think that gave up that corner three. That’s a hard-fought team and like I said, they have a whole bench. When you have 5’1”, 4’9”, 5’3”, 5’9”, 5’7” versus six feet, 5’10”, 5’11”, not only does it wear you down, but it puts you in a situation where now you have to do whatever you can that you haven’t tested.”

Whitney had defeated Walnut High 57-44 in the first round last Thursday while El Dorado smashed San Bernardino High 71-22 thanks in part to some key players from the Cardinals being suspended. Still, Jacobs liked the matchup he was presented with and felt his team could stay close enough to where the ‘Cats could prevail.

“I thought the assignments were perfect,” said Jacobs. “The matchups were fine. They went on a run; basketball is a possession of runs. They went on a run, and we went on a run.”

Lacorte led Whitney with 16 points and four three-pointers while Wang had 10 points, four rebounds and two steals. Junior Kylie Wang pitched in with nine points, six rebounds and five steals and Macaraeg added seven points and two steals. Song would have the other two points as all of Whitney’s points came from its starters.

“Layla is not just a player of mine, she’s like a goddaughter to me,” said Jacobs. “Layla, Kayla, Rachel Song…these kids helped build this program stronger. They play hard, they’ve been through a lot together. I think that kid played phenomenal today. She had 16 points and she just left it on the floor. Last game, what the hell? Do what you can and win, and if it doesn’t happen, at least you know you walk out of here knowing you gave everything you had.”

Whitney graduates four seniors but figure to be a force next season with the returners and some up and coming prospects from the junior high level. 

Division 3A-Anaheim 85, Norwalk 25

ANAHEIM-Very little went right for the Lancers last Thursday in this first round loss to the Colonists. After junior Keilani Ganancial tied the game 67 seconds into the contest, Anaheim went on a 21-0 run and just like that, the game was virtually over. It also didn’t help that the Lancers turned the ball over 19 times in the opening stanza. By the time the game had ended, Norwalk had turned the ball over 48 times and attempted 40 shots from the field. 

Norwalk High junior Keilani Ganancial drives around Ashley Guzman of Anaheim High in last Thursday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 3A first round game. Ganancial scored 11 points as the Lancers were crushed 85-25. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer

“It’s a solid squad,” said Norwalk head coach Ashley Baclaan of Anaheim. “We already knew what we were coming up against. We knew they were going to be fast; they’re going to be shooters. But I think with all the energy and emotions, obviously [they] got rattled and there it was…turnovers.”

Norwalk scored one other basket in the first quarter, which came from senior Julieta Castellanos with 1:13 left in the stanza. The Lancers nearly tripled their scoring production in the second quarter but when the game had reached halftime, it was 51-15. Because of the 30 turnovers in the half, Norwalk attempted 23 shots with Ganancial connecting on four of seven shots for nine points. However, she picked up two fouls in the first quarter and Baclaan had to be cautious with her on the court. She would end the game with a team-high 11 points.

“I think with the limitations on that one, there’s your 19 turnovers,” said Baclaan. “We can’t really get the ball up the court. It is what it is. We prepped all week for certain things, but obviously, with the way the energy and atmosphere can be sometimes, things flip. But it’s all good.”

Norwalk’s first basket of the second half didn’t come until the 4:51 mark and came on an offensive putback from sophomore Janii McGarrah. After that, Anaheim went on a 15-0 run. 

“Regardless, just like any other game, there is nothing to lose,” said Baclaan of her halftime speech to her team. “You have to go out, play hard and keep trying to do what you’ve been doing all season and some.”

After grabbing 10 rebounds in the first quarter, the Lancers (16-12) would get 19 the remainder of the game. Castellanos and senior Amanda Rangel, two of seven seniors on the team, each scored four points.

“I think it’s still a good season; a good solid season for the girls,” said Baclaan. “They played every day, practiced, whatever they had to do. I think they learned and grew. It’s just sometimes you still fall short.”