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GIRLS BASKETBALL – Whitney rallies in fourth quarter to stun Crean Lutheran

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

IRVINE-When the season began, Whitney High’s girls basketball team was nowhere to be found on the CIF-Southern Section’s Division 2A watch list. But after rallying from a deficit that reached 12 points late in the first half, there’s a reason why the Wildcats are now ranked sixth in the division.

Whitney outscored host Crean Lutheran High 19-12 in the fourth quarter and nipped the Saints 58-56 on junior Haylie Wang’s driving lay-up with 12.3 seconds left to play. After the Saints called a timeout with 10.7 seconds remaining, Jane Hewitt’s desperation three-point attempt did not fall in, giving Whitney a signature victory over the 13th-ranked team in Division 2AA.

“We had two fouls to give and there were 10 seconds left,” said Whitney head coach Myron Jacobs. “Our thing was to play a 2-2-1 full court. [Senior] Kylie [Wang] had four fouls, so she got put on the opposite side and we were going to foul. Luckily [junior] Rachel Moyher poked the ball loose and they got put in a situation where they picked it up and put up a desperation shot.”

Whitney entered the fourth quarter down 44-39 and after both teams traded baskets, the ‘Cats began their comeback. Haylie Wang sank a pair of free throws and sophomore Mady Macaraeg and Kylie Wang had baskets in a span of 41 seconds, the latter as she was falling down. Kylie Wang’s basket marked the first time since late in the first quarter Whitney had a lead.

But Crean Lutheran came back on the strength of three-pointers from Jane Moyer and Savannah Brawley to take a 53-49 lead. Moments later, another trifecta from Moyer made it a 56-52 contest with 1:20 left to play. 

But in a span of half a minute, Haylie Wang took a pass from her sister and scored, then tied the game with 34.5 seconds remaining.

“With having only one day to prep, I think we responded well,” said Jacobs. “Let me say this; we haven’t had a practice for a week. Our last game was against Northwood on Monday, and I knew, playing that game, we were sluggish because we came out sluggish. We are a 60-point team; we can put up 70, but we are a 60-point team. With the freshmen that we have that really played but didn’t show up today, I really think that in the future, they’ll be better. But I thought today, we showed a little bit of resiliency, and we overcame adversity and battled back and fought hard.”

The game began on an auspicious start as Haylie Wang collected three fouls within the first five minutes of the game and junior Allie Yamaguchi matched her in fouls before halftime. Neither would collect another foul, but with Haylie Wang on the bench for much of the second quarter, the ‘Cats found themselves trailing by as many as 12 points with 2:17 left in the half following a steal and basket from Brawley.

“I trust Haylie and like I tell everybody, my big three, whether they get three or four fouls, are staying in the game,” said Jacobs. “As a coach, if you don’t have any trust in your players and give them that chance to go out there and make that decision, then they’re not going to know how to do it later down the line. This is a big game; it wasn’t the time to play conservative. It was the time to go out there and get it.”

The sisters would have nine points each in the first half with Macaraeg accounting for the other six points as Whitney was down by 10 points at the break. Only one other Whitney player would score, and that was from freshman Alyssa So, whose three-pointer with 4:46 left in the third quarter made it 39-31.

“I thought the 3-2 zone was working against them,” said Jacobs. “When we watched tape [on them], we noticed that they had two games. One was close against Pioneer; they won by two, and one they lost to Flintridge Prep by one, and they both played similar zone defense. 

“We decided to play a 3-2 zone, something that we never play,” he continued. “We always play man. We thought that would help us win the game, and therefore we did.”

Haylie Wang led Whitney with 23 points, 10 rebounds and three steals while Kylie Wang had 18 points, six rebounds and four assists. Macaraeg pitched in with 14 points and three rebounds as the ‘Cats remained undefeated through their first five games.

“That’s that offseason work I told you about,” said Jacobs. “[Haylie] and Kylie did whatever they can in the offseason to come back and not only help this team win but teach and mentor the younger kids that step up from [junior varsity] and incoming freshmen to show them this is how Whitney does it. It just wasn’t Haylie or Kylie. I think it was a solid all-around effort.”

Whitney faced Norwalk High this past Tuesday in pool play action of the Glenn-Norwalk Varsity Classic and slammed the Lancers 80-19. Kylie Wang outscored Norwalk by one point, getting a dozen points in the first quarter. So had 13 points, Haylie Wang 12 points and Macaraeg 11 points in the rout. The Wildcats played Workman High this past Wednesday and will have two more games in the tournament before visiting Laguna Beach High on Tuesday and hosting Troy High on Thursday.