La Jolla Country Day School Torreys 52, Horizon Christian Academy Panthers 50
By Ed Piper
La Jolla Country Day School built a nine-point lead with two-and-a-half minutes left in the game, then hung on to beat the Horizon Christian Academy Panthers on Valentine’s Day, 52- 50, to stay within one game of The Bishop’s School in the Coastal League and set up a return matchup with Bishop’s Knights Feb. 21. LJCD is ranked No. 6 in CIF, Bishop’s No. 1.
“We just had a few mistakes, but we got back in it. It was just mental (mistakes). We bounced back quickly,” said sophomore guard Mariana Ecija, who is a vital cog in LJCD coach Terri Bamford’s defense.
Horizon, whom the Torreys beat by 25 points in their previous encounter, brought a ferocious attack on their home court, reinvigorated by the return of DiJonai Carrington and Janae Omusi from injuries.
But Country Day (now 4-1 in league, 16-9 overall), on the back of their three-quarter-court pressure and persistent pounding of the boards, managed to move out to two eight-point leads in the third quarter. Six-foot forward Sabrina Callahan was physical and relentless on the offensive boards for the Torreys, and Mai-loni Henson attacked the outside and inside as the Torreys jumped out to a small lead from the beginning. Callahan scored eight points in the opening quarter, Henson six. Callahan averages 13.6 points per game, Henson 14.8.
In the nail-biter of a fourth quarter, junior Cydney Collins hit the 3-point bomb that put LJCD up 51-42. But then she committed a foul at the other end that put Panther Taylor Pearson on the line to make two free throws and start Horizon’s climb back into striking distance with under three minutes to play.
At 1:42, Horizon called a time out. A set inbound play led to two free throws, the Torrey lead now only 51-46.
Carrington made a driving layup under intense pressure to make it 51-48. After LJCD nemesis Sarah Porter scored off a turnover forced by the defense for 51-50, Callahan was fouled on an awkward backhanded layup attempt from the left side of the basket. She made the second of two free throws to put the Torreys up by two, 52-50.
Guard Isabel Aguirre was fouled with 21 seconds left. She couldn’t convert the front end of a one- and-one. Ditto for Henson with four seconds left.
But LJCD held on to win despite a Horizon layup attempt with time running out.
Said Ecija of the three-quarter- court pressure Country Day applied most of the game: “We just have to keep our heads in it, and then it will be good.”
Said Aguirre, who averages 1.7 steals per game, of her role: “I try to get a lot of steals and get out there and pressure the ball.”
Before the game, coach Bamford, surveying the season with a week before playoffs in the Open Division, commented: “We’re 15-9 and we’re getting better and better. We’ve beaten some ranked teams.” Henson pulled down a whopping 20 rebounds, Callahan 18.
La Jolla Country Day School: Henson 18, Callahan 15, Aguirre 5, Ecija 5, Collins 3, Muhammad 3, Johnson 2