Girls Basketball: La Jolla Country Day School edges Vista Murrieta High in cliffhanger, 57-55
GIRLS BASKETBALL — SCORE:
• La Jolla Country Day School Torreys: 57
• Vista Murrieta High School Broncos: 55
By Ed Piper
La Jolla Country Day School’s Lady Torreys regained their focus after blowing an early 15-point lead, just in time to capture a 57-55 victory over Vista Murrieta High School in the second round of Country Day’s own Sweet 16 Basketball Invitational Dec. 5, 2013.
LJCDS built a 19-4 lead over the visiting Broncos in the first quarter on the back of sophomore Mai-Loni Henson. The 6-foot guard scored 14 points during the run, aided by the deft ball movement of playmaker Melanie Quijano and other teammates. A set back-door play surprised Vista more than once for easy buckets.
Vista Murrieta, like Country Day a highly-ranked girls team, finally got their bearings and tied the Torreys 36-36, going ahead for the first time with 4.3 seconds left in the third quarter at 39-36. A 6-foot-1 prospect Jaelyn Brown started to show signs of her ability for the Broncos, while fellow sophomore Brittney Reed scored twice on driving layups during the comeback.
But Country Day didn’t want a repeat of their earlier contest in the day, playing sluggishly and losing by seven points to Highlands Ranch, Colorado, in a 10 a.m. game. After Vista built a 51-47 lead, Torrey Sabrina Callahan scored a bucket to cut the lead in half. Henson followed a missed shot to bring LJCD into a tie at 51-51 with 3:15 left in the game. The game had gotten very physical. It was definitely a nail-biter.
Callahan, a senior, made one of two free throws for a 52-51 advantage. Henson scored on a layup for a three-point bulge. Callahan fouled out with 1:16 left before Vista tied again, 54-54, on a free throw by Reed, missing the second.
Henson, showing her versatility, dribbled the ball safely to half-court under heavy pressure. Then the sophomore scored underneath off a pass from Quijano to lead 57-54. Vista coach Chris Jones called a timeout with 13.4 seconds remaining.
Vista couldn’t score coming out of the timeout, but Bronco guard Yuendie Guridi, clutch all night, was knocked down at midcourt as time appeared to run out. The referees huddled and reset the clock at 0.4 second.
Guridi hit the first three throw to make it 57-55. Vista called another timeout to strategize. On the second free throw, Guridi intentionally hit the ball off the rim, but it caromed to a Country Day player and time ran out.
Isabel Aguirre, a junior guard, said about losing the lead but holding on at the end: “I think we got a little complacent and we almost let it slip away. But we got together, and we fought, and we weren’t going to let the game slip away.”
What was Callahan thinking when she fouled out with 1:16 left in the game? The Torreys only had two other players suited up for the game, for a total of seven on the roster. Sabrina: “I let my team down. But I knew that my team was behind my back and would step up.”
Commented LJCD coach Terri Bamford: “(There was) good composure at the end of the game for the girls. There’s a lot of pressure and you got to make big-time decisions, and I thought our last couple of possessions were really good.” She said a key to the big lead earlier in the game was LJCD’s running set plays well against Vista’s man-to-man defense.
On Quijano’s role: “She makes us go. Her basketball IQ is super high. She understands the game, and she gets the ball where it’s supposed to go.”
Aguirre commented on the motivation of the earlier loss in the day: “I think we just came out with a lot of intensity and energy. I think we were all a little upset about the 10 o’clock game. We brought it (the energy).”
LJCD lost a third-round game to crosstown rival Bishop’s the next night, Dec. 6, 70-34.
Said Callahan: “Everyone just stepped up this game. We came out on fire. We were all pumped. We were intense. We were focused. And then second half, we kind of tapered off. Then we pulled it out. We were hungry. We wanted it.”
— GAME STATS:
• Points: Henson 30, Mariana Ecija 7, Cydney Collins 6, Quijano 6, Callahan 6, Isabel Aguirre 2
• Rebounds: Henson 13, Aguirre 4. Assists: Quijano 4, Mariana Ecija 2, Collins 2. Steals: Ecija 2.
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