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CIF-SS DIV. 5AA GIRLS BASKETBALL SEMIFINALS – Ho’s three-pointer culminates Gahr’s fourth quarter rally, puts Gladiators in championship game

Gahr High senior Lauryen Teramoto drives between Kim Nguyen (#5) and Tiana To of Marina High in last Saturday night’s CIF-Southern Section Division 5AA semifinal game. Teramoto scored nine points, had eight rebounds, four steals and six assists as the Gladiators edged Marina 39-38. Teramoto assisted on sophomore Christine Ho’s game-winning three-point basket with 28.8 seconds left in the contest. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

February 22, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

When Gahr High senior Lauryen Teramoto was a freshman, the Gladiators went 4-24 and winless in the old San Gabriel Valley League. Over her next two seasons, Gahr went a combined 8-32 but now, she has a chance to end her high school year as a CIF champion.

Once down by eight points nearly midway through the fourth quarter against Marina High in a CIF-Southern Section Division 5AA semifinal game, the Gladiators battled back and took the lead when sophomore Christine Ho, standing at the top of the key, took an inbound pass from Teramoto and sank a three-pointer with 28.8 seconds left. Gahr then held on to edge the Vikings 39-38, advancing to the program’s first championship game for the first time since 2013.

“I can’t even explain it,” said Teramoto. “I’m so happy, especially with the people we have here. They’re the ones who made it happy. So, I’m just so happy my last ride I get to be with them, and we were able to turn [5-23] into 25-6.”

“I never really expected it, and when I took that shot, I didn’t notice the time or how much we were down by,” said Ho. “I just focused on my job.”

Gahr, the third-ranked team in the division, improved to 25-6 and will face top-ranked St. Margaret’s High at Edison High in Huntington Beach on Saturday with a scheduled tip-off time for 6:00 p.m. The 25 victories are the most in over 26 seasons for the program and just the fifth time since the 1997-1998 season Gahr has won at least 20 games in a season.

“These seniors, it’s what they wanted,” said Gahr first-year head coach Al Howard. “It’s what they came back for, for a chance to do it. And they’re doing it. It’s them; it’s all of them.”

The Mid-Cities League champion knew it was in for a battle with the 10th-ranked Vikings out of the Wave League, trailing 10-5 just five seconds into the second quarter before turning the tables and going on a 10-0 run. Ho, who had opened the game’s scoring with a three-pointer 1:14 in, added another one at the 5:36 mark of the second quarter to put the hosts back in front. Almost a minute, she had a steal and basket, was fouled, and converted a free throw to make it 15-10. Then with 1:17 left in the half, her perimeter shot gave the Gladiators an 18-14 lead. She would not have another point until the game winner.

While Ho scored 12 points in the first half, the rest of the team combined for the other six points as senior starters Kameryn Mitchell, Alyssa Miyake, Amanda Ulloa and Teramoto combined to go one of 11 for four points. The other two first half points came from sophomore Jody Colbert.

“I told you earlier in the season, we had some youngsters who were going to be big for us,” said Howard. “And [Ho] was the one tonight. [Sophomore] Simar [Sogi], Christine, Jody…these kids were getting a lot of experience and tonight was Christine’s night.”

“I just tried to do my best and just help the team,” said Ho. “If they were at their worst, then I tried to pick them up and help them.”

Although Gahr scored 18 points on five of 24 shooting from the field in the half, the other component of its game all season was staying true to form-its defense. The Gladiators limited the Vikings to half a dozen baskets and when the game was over, had held an opponent to under 40 points for the 23rd time. 

“We got steals, we got turnovers, we got easy lay-ups,” said Howard. “The defense turned into the offense. We held this team to 38 points.”

“[The coaches] said this is the semifinals, so no one is going to give up and we have to play our hardest and do the best we can,” said Ho.

Marina would own the third quarter, outscoring Gahr 14-8 as the lead changed hand five times, the last coming on a three-pointer from Rylee Bradley with 2:43 remaining in the stanza. On Gahr’s ensuing trip down the court, Maria Tejeda had a steal and scored and when Bradley began the fourth quarter with a basket, the Vikings were up by five points for the second time in the game. That lead would balloon to eight points when Sydnie Smith scored her only points of the game with 4:38 remaining. After that, it was all Gahr, and Teramoto, who found her groove again. She scored consecutive baskets to make it 37-33.

“Hey, it’s a semifinal game,” said Howard. “It’s tight; the walls start closing in. But we had to settle ourselves down and just realize that hey, we’ve been playing basketball for a long time. It’s just playing basketball.”

“It was definitely challenging,” said Teramoto. “It definitely lowered the confidence a bit. But I knew I had to do something. Our coaches, anytime we’re in this situation during half[time], they’re always talking to each and every one of us. And we all have each other’s back.”

With 2:19 left in the game, Colbert scored and 23 seconds later, a free throw from senior Kayla Kodua made it 37-36. 

Teramoto would drive to the basket but her shot with 30.3 seconds left was blocked out of bounds by Mia Grasse. That would lead to the biggest basket for the program in years as Ho was left wide open at the top of the key for the game-winner.

“It’s just amazing because no one thought we would get here,” said Ho. “We just proved everyone wrong each day and we worked hard for it. So, we got it.”

Teramoto scored eight of her nine points in the second half and also grabbed eight rebounds while collecting four steals and two assists. Colbert had nine rebounds while Mitchell and Miyake each had six boards.

“It’s her senior year,” said Howard of Teramoto. “That’s all I had to say. She gave me a look and you saw what she did after that.”

Besides the 2012-2013 season, Gahr hadn’t had much success of making deep runs in the postseason. The program had been to the quarterfinals in 2006 and 2012 and before that, the Gladiators fell in the 1997 title game against Laguna Hills High 54-40. Gahr did win the whole thing in 1992, a 74-37 conquest over Tustin High. On top of all that, this is the program’s first winning season since going 15-12 in 2016-2017 and the fourth winning season in 12 years.

“Never,” said Teramoto when asked if she thought she would be playing for a championship. “First three years, it was I can’t wait for this to end. And now we’re here, it’s like I don’t want this to ever end. It’s a completely different feeling, 180 all the way around I couldn’t be happier.”