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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW – Norwalk girls basketball foils La Mirada’s plans of a potential shared Mid-Cities League title

By Loren Kopff • @Loren Kopff on X

This has been a historic season in many ways for the La Mirada High girls basketball team, which was looking to add another notch on its totem pole of accomplishments. However, without the services of senior Jirah Domingo, the team’s lone senior who is also the leading scorer, the Matadores didn’t quite have enough as Norwalk High posted a 51-40 victory on its senior night this past Tuesday.

Norwalk improved to 12-15 overall, 6-3 in the Mid-Cities League and secured at least third place and an automatic berth to the CIF-Southern Section playoffs. La Mirada, ranked third in the Division 5AA poll, dropped to 17-5 overall, 7-2 in league and lost a chance of staying tied with Mayfair High for the top spot in the league with one game remaining in the regular season.

“I know they were also down one of their big players,” said Norwalk head coach Ashley Baclaan. “That was definitely a factor, I know, in their game. In terms of our girls. I’m glad that we were executing some things out that we were talking about and that they kept their composure.”

“After checking with our trainer, we didn’t feel like she was ready to be back on the court after a concussion,” said La Mirada head coach Victoria Luong of Domingo. “He said she wasn’t well enough to play. She had 22 points the last time against Norwalk; that’s a major factor. Also, she had a lot of assists and steals, which helps with the team overall.

“It was definitely a downer on the team,” she continued. “The girls just didn’t have the energy. We had three girls who had been sick all weekend. They actually just came back to school today, so they haven’t been with us over the weekend or for practice yesterday.”

Domingo, who has scored in double figures in the 20 games she has played in, hit her head on the court late in last Wednesday’s home game against Mayfair. She managed to score 30 points, but then sat out last Friday’s game at Dominguez High and the Norwalk contest.

La Mirada led only once in the game but stayed within five points until the Lancers began a 6-0 run with a steal from sophomore Kaylyn Moreno, who dished off a pass to senior Rhean Pasqual and a basket. Over a minute and a half later, Pasqual scored off a steal and senior Keilani Ganancial put back one of her five offensive baskets as the Lancers went up 23-14 with 2:38 left in the first half.

Despite poor shooting by the Matadores, they were staying close because of the supporting cast of juniors Emily Gonzalez (nine rebounds, four points in the first half) and Simran Sahota (six rebounds in the second quarter). But Norwalk’s third run of the game proved to be the dagger in the heart as it went on a 9-0 run late in the third quarter to go up 38-22, its biggest lead of the game.

The fourth quarter was nothing but trading baskets until the lead shrunk to 44-36 with 5:36 remaining in the game, prompting Baclaan to call a pair of timeouts.

“That’s why I had to call those timeouts because they definitely weren’t listening and they were getting too out of control and antsy,” said Baclaan. “Once they settled down, then we did alright; we did enough.”

“I told the girls, fortunately for us, we only have one senior, which is Jirah,” said Luong. “But this is their team next year. We have to pick it up and learn how to play when we don’t have her. We’re praying that she’s better by Thursday; that we do have her. But then again, we have to make do and everybody else has to step up.”

Ganancial, the leader of the team all season, was held in check in the first half, scoring four points on two of 11 shooting. But she bounced back in the second half to finish with 11 points. Pasqual led the Lancers with a dozen points and eight rebounds while junior Anahi Rodriguez came off the bench to add 11 points and eight boards.

“That was something we have definitely been trying to work on; having others gain that confidence to take those shots, but not overtake them, sometimes,” said Baclaan. “I think they played it smart, not just today, but in one of other games recently. So, it became more like a solid team effort on the offensive side. So that was good.”

La Mirada was led by freshman sensation Jordin Shaw’s 13 points while junior Hailey Medrano scored eight points and grabbed seven rebounds. Gonzalez and Sahota pitched in with six points each while the former had 10 rebounds and the latter eight boards.

“Some of these girls came in never playing basketball before,” said Luong. “Jirah and [junior] Jael [Arreguin] grew up playing basketball. But there are other players who never played organized ball. So, we started fresh, and they’ve come a long way. This is the best record that we’ve had in…forever, since MaxPreps [began its business]. This [season] is the first time we’ve beaten Mayfair since 2008. They’ve made long strides, but I think…we’re still working on their mental game. It’s just that matter of getting back and playing hard to move forward.”

La Mirada hosts fourth place Bellflower High to wrap up the regular season while the Lancers travel to fifth place Firebaugh High. Barring a major upset, Mayfair will win the league title outright as the Monsoons face last place Dominguez.

“Anytime we make [the playoffs], I hope we go as far as possible,” said Baclaan. “It’s just one of those, ‘we’ll see how we show up’. We’ll just prepare as best we can for whoever it is and then just try to bring our best.”

In other girls basketball action involving teams going to the playoffs, with the final league games being played on Feb. 1, Cerritos High (18-9, 9-0) visited Whitney High (19-8, 9-1), hoping to win the 605 League crown outright. Whitney is ranked 15th in Division 2A while Cerritos is ranked 15th in Division 3AA. Gahr High, ranked fourth in Division 4AA, hosted second place Paramount High. The Gladiators are 18-7, 2-5 and in fourth place in the Gateway League.

In boys action, Cerritos is 16-10, 9-0 and ranked fourth in Division 4AA while Artesia High can take second place outright in the 605 Legaue with a win at Oxford Academy. The Pioneers are 17-9, 7-2 while Whitney is in third place at 15-9, 6-3.

La Mirada (20-7, 7-0), the 14th ranked team in Division 1, has won the Gateway League and hosted Downey High while Gahr (17-8, 7-2), tied for first place in the Mid-Cities League, was home to Paramount. Valley Christian High is 15-12 overall but 2-5 in the Olympic League and in fourth place. The Defenders, who hosted Village Christian High, could get in as an at-large team.

BOYS SOCCER

Artesia, ranked fourth in Division 2, was 16-0-3 and had given up four goals but lost to Animo Leadership High, the top-ranked team in Division 3, 2-1 last Saturday and Pioneer 3-1 this past Monday. Still the Pioneers are 605 League champions while Cerritos (7-9-3, 5-1-3) is sure to finish in a tie for second place as it visited winless Whitney.

Gahr (8-11-3, 5-4-0) needs to beat last place Mayfair and have Dominguez fall to league-leading Bellflower to claim third place while V.C. (6-11-4, 3-2-2) has claimed third place in the Olympic League.

GIRLS SOCCER

Artesia (14-3-2, 5-2-0), ranked ninth in Division 7, has locked down second place while Cerritos (13-5-2, 7-0-0) has yet to lose a 605 League game since the circuit was formed six years ago. La Mirada (5-8-5, 3-2-2) is third in the Gateway League and went to Downey while Norwalk (5-11-1, 4-5-0) has a chance for third place in the Mid-Cities League as the Lancers entertained Firebaugh. V.C. (11-6-2, 6-0-1) hosted Village Christian and win will give the Defenders the Olympic League title outright.