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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW – Norwalk boys basketball runs out of steam, faces familiar situation as league approaches

December 21, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

ANAHEIM-Considering how the beginning of the Edward Prange Memorial Basketball Tournament went for the Norwalk High boys basketball team went, head coach Brent Campanelli must be pleased with how it ended. The Lancers lost to Huntington Beach High by 34 points last Thursday, then bounced back to knock off Anaheim High 48-31 the next day.

Facing host Loara High last Saturday, Norwalk was down by 10 points in the first quarter to trail by a point with 88 seconds left in the first half. It was down by 17 points in the third quarter only to trail by two points with 2:51 left in the game. But that’s where the Lancers went cold and ended up losing 60-52.

“They are resilient; they’re tough,” said Campanelli. “We have always been like that and when you’re playing from behind, you really don’t have any other choice than kind of to play chaotic and play fast. I’ve been talking to the guys about identity and what their identity on finding is trying to be a little bit grimy; a little more tougher defensively to create open shots and try to allow them to play a little more free. That’s what was happening at that moment.”

The Saxons were up by 10 points with 4:51 left in the third quarter before scoring the next seven points to hold their largest lead of the game. However, Norwalk responded with an 8-0 run with junior Andruw Castellanos scoring the last six points. Loara upped its lead to 14 points less than half a minute into the fourth quarter before the Lancers found their groove again, this time going on a 9-1 run after junior Aaron Reyes hit a three-pointer with 4:07 left to play.

A free throw from Reyes with 2:51 remaining made it a 52-50 contest. But the Lancers would miss five straight shots from the field since Reyes’ three-pointer and didn’t score again until sophomore David Zazueta scored off an offensive rebound with 12.5 seconds left. Norwalk had outscored Loara 22-7 over a span of 8:50 in the second half. 

“I thought [junior] Ariel [Rodriguez] got a really clean look right in front of me,” said Campanelli. “He had a three-point look right in front of me and he missed it. Andruw had played really, really well in that stretch and knocked in a few, I know, and he had another look that didn’t go in. They tightened up and they got urgent as well and they tightened things up as well. They made it difficult for us.”

Zazueta led the Lancers with 16 points, had six rebounds and two steals while Castellanos added a dozen points and also had six rebounds and two steals. 

“We lean on those two guys,” said Campanelli. “David has really stepped up as a sophomore and Andruw was kind of a guy we were always going to lean on as a primary playmaker. Talking about resilient, Andruw Castellanos is basically the definition of it for us. What he goes through night in and night out, being undersized…he is the vocal leader of the team. He sets the tone, he never makes an excuse, he takes ownership. Having him be the focal point is good for us.” 

Also having a good game was Reyes, who scored 14 points and grabbed three rebounds. However, things might have been better for the Lancers through the first 12 games had they had the services of senior Jakhari Ramey, who averaged 11 points a game last season. He tore his ACL and MCL towards the end of summer. Without him in the lineup, Campanelli has had to make some adjustments with his starting five. On top of that, senior Robert Salazar hasn’t played in the last five games.

“The leaps he had taken in the summer; it was just the sky’s the limit kind of thing,” said Campanelli. “And to be honest, it still is for him, because he will make a full recovery. But we miss him dearly, absolutely. His skill set, his energy…the joy that guys feel just being around him. He had the ball in his hands a lot last year; he had the ball in his hands a lot in the summer and so guys had to step up. But we don’t dwell on it, and he wouldn’t want us to. We just keep plugging away.” 

The Lancers find themselves in a precarious situation just like the one they were in around this time last season. Norwalk was sitting at 7-11 last season after a 55-53 loss to Loara in the last game of the Anaheim Colony Classic, knowing it had to go at least 7-3 in Mid-Cities League action just to make the playoffs, a 6-4 finish would leave the Lancers with a sub-.500 overall record and no chance of the CIF-Southern Section playoffs. 

Norwalk began the week with a convincing 65-15 win over John Glenn High, improving to 5-8 with five games remaining before heading into league action. After a game on Catalina Island against Avalon High on Friday, Norwalk will participate in the Estancia Tournament beginning with a Dec. 26 game against Pioneer High.

“It’s really frustrating,” said Campanelli. “I think we are better than what our record indicates. We need to start to pile up wins, obviously. I do think we are a better basketball club than what our record shows. But [with] six games before league, if we can go 3-3 in those, that will help. It will keep us right where we’re at. Then we get a couple of guys back that can play. Hopefully, Robert is healthy, and we get a couple of [transfers] who are eligible to play after Christmas.”

In other boys basketball action, 

Artesia High flew across the country to play in the Osceola Tournament and lost to Poinciana High out of Kissimmee, FL 57-22 this past Tuesday before knocking off Kathleen High of Lakeland, FL 58-50 this past Wednesday, The Pioneers (8-4) faced Osceola High on Dec. 21. Glenn’s loss to Norwalk dropped its mark to 8-5 as the Eagles will host Alliance Health Services Academy on Friday and New Designs University Park on Thursday. 

Cerritos High will visit Fountain Valley High on Friday and will be in the Holiday Hoops Tournament at Mt. Carmel High in Rancho Penasquitos beginning on Wednesday where they will face Mira Mesa High in bracket play. The tournament runs through Dec. 30.

La Mirada High dropped a 71-67 decision to St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy last Friday, its third setback in 14 games this season. The Matadores will face Owyhee High out of Meridian, ID on Wednesday in the first game of The Classic at Damien. 

Valley Christian High defeated Chaminade High 65-50 last Friday to level its record after 10 games. The Defenders hosted Kennedy High this past Wednesday and entertained Serrano High on Dec. 21. The program will host its yearly tournament next week with V.C. facing Rowland High on Tuesday, Holy Martyrs Armenian on Wednesday and Brea Olinda High on Thursday.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Artesia (6-4), which hasn’t played since Dec. 8, will be in San Diego for the Southern California Holiday Prep Classic next week. The Pioneers will face West Hills High on Wednesday and Lincoln High on Thursday.

Cerritos blasted Foothill High 60-38 last Saturday on the final day of the Segerstrom Tournament to improve to 7-4. The Dons host North Torrance High on Friday and will also be in the So Cal Holiday Prep Classic where they will play Gig Harbor High out of Washington on Wednesday and Fallbrook High on Thursday in pool play action.

Glenn lost to Rancho Alamitos High 60-18 this past Monday to see its record go to 2-9. The Eagles visited Baldwin Park High on Dec. 21.

La Mirada has won four straight games including a 49-24 decision over Norco High last Friday. The Matadores (6-2) hosted Bolsa Grande High this past Wednesday and will face Long Beach Cabrillo High on Tuesday while Norwalk (4-11) went to Bolsa Grande on Dec. 21 and will travel to San Gabriel High on Friday.

BOYS SOCCER

Artesia has not allowed a goal in four straight games, improved to 6-0-2 with a 0-0 tie against Kennedy last Thursday, a 6-0 win over Workman High this past Monday and a 3-0 win over Norwalk this past Tuesday. The Pioneers hosted Baldwin Park on Dec. 21 and will entertain Corona High on Thursday.

Cerritos (2-6) fell to Bellflower High 4-1 this past Tuesday and entertained Esperanza High on Dec. 21 while Gahr saw its record drop to 1-5-3 after a 3-2 loss to Yorba Linda High this past Tuesday.

Glenn was blanked by Ocean View High 3-0 last Friday to fall to 4-6-1. The Eagles visited Whittier High on Dec. 21 and will host San Gabriel on Friday while La Mirada tied Norwalk 1-1 last Friday and was shutout by Brea Olinda 3-0 this past Tuesday. The Matadores are 4-5-1.

Norwalk’s loss to Artesia dropped the Lancers to a 1-7-1 start, one of the worst in the program’s history. The Lancers had a record of 4-11-4 in the 2004-2005 campaign and has missed the playoffs four times in the past 25 seasons. Their lone win was the first game of the season on Nov. 14, and they have scored four goals thus far.

V.C. edged Whittier 2-1 last Thursday to improve to 2-7-2 as it hosted Pacifica High this past Wednesday and entertained Mayfair High on Dec. 21.

GIRLS SOCCER

Just like the boys, Artesia has been playing stellar defense, defeating San Gabriel 4-0 and Mountain View High 2-0 last Saturday in the final day of the Best in the West Tournament. The Pioneers (8-1-1) visited Norwalk this past Wednesday.

Cerritos (5-3-1) swept is two opponents last Saturday in the Best in the West Tournament by identical 2-1 scores over Crean Lutheran High and La Mirada while Gahr blanked Magnolia High 4-0 and Whittier 5-0 last Saturday in the Best in the West Tournament, then edged Whittier Christian High 3-2 this past Tuesday to improve to 6-6-1. The Gladiators, now on a four-game winning streak, hosted Hawthorne High on Dec. 21.

La Mirada (2-5-3) concluded the Best in the West Tournament last Saturday with a 1-0 win over Dana Hills High before the loss to Cerritos. The Matadores hosted Yorba Linda this past Wednesday while V.C. lost to Flintridge Prep 5-1 and Fairmont Prep 2-0 last Saturday in the Best in the West Tournament. The Defenders (3-4) will face Montclair High and Northview High on Wednesday in the Ontario Christian Christmas Classic.