SUBURBAN LEAGUE BASKETBALL Norwalk girls stunned by La Mirada, shooting falters in second half

By Loren Kopff

The Norwalk girls basketball team had already wrapped up third place in the Suburban League but it wanted to send its nine seniors off with a victory in their final home game. However, the Lady Lancers were held scoreless over the final 1:55 of the game and were edged by La Mirada 51-48 this past Tuesday.

Norwalk, which was nearly 50 percent from the field in the first half, was true on six of 27 field goals in the second half. In addition, the Norwalk starters were limited to six points in the second half.

“Again, I think we put ourselves in the hole from the start,” said Norwalk head coach Emily Osongco. “We were preaching to the girls about defense and we definitely needed to sprint, not reach. Some of the buckets….we have to understand that when we need a three, I’m not going to put it all at the very end. I was very disappointed with our defense and our inability to box out today.”

Norwalk (14-11 overall, 7-4 in the Suburban League) had a four-point lead three times in the first quarter as senior Jackie Aldana connected on a pair of three-pointers and senior J’Nae Harrison added a pair of baskets. But the Matadores came back and took a 21-17 lead before Aldana added another downtown shot and junior Mele Valele’s two-pointer put the hosts in front again.

The half ended with Aldana staying hot and hitting another three-pointer to give Norwalk a 31-29 advantage at the break. But La Mirada opened the second half on a 5-0 run and opened up a brief five-point lead almost three minutes in following a basket from Aysia Rivers.

The Lady Lancers countered with an 8-2 run to close out the third quarter and eventually led 48-45 after Harrison hit a pair of free throws.

But Norwalk attempted four field goals over the final 2:39 of the game and Lauryn Jordan’s free throws with 1:32 left in the game gave La Mirada the lead for good. Aldana and Harrison each scored 12 points and combined for nine rebounds while junior Danielle Tate added nine points and six rebounds. Norwalk visited Bellflower on Feb. 12 and has already won four more games than last season while moving up one spot in the league standings from last season. But the second-year head coach still needs her team to brush up on a few things in order to be successful in next week’s California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section playoffs.

“Capitalizing on a steal or on a turnover and not throwing it away,” Osongco said of her team’s needs. “Just keep it basic, solid passes, catch first, box out, make free throws and go to the lane strong without hesitation. I know foul troubles might have made some of them play a bit differently. But at the same time, I think their ability to move their feet in the first place wouldn’t have gotten us in that position.

Following the game, the Norwalk boys stayed close to the CIF-SS Division II-A’s top ranked team for nearly the first 12 minutes. Then the Lancers went scoreless for almost nine minutes. In the end, La Mirada slammed Norwalk 62-35 to clinch no worse than a share of the league title.

“We had to play as good as we could play for a long period of time,” said Norwalk head coach Jim Webster. “And I think they picked up the intensity on those traps early in the second quarter and we just had about a six-point run where they got us.”

The Matadores led 13-7 after the first quarter and Anthony Newman’s three-pointer 12 seconds into the second quarter game La Mirada its biggest lead thus far. But the Lancers (9-16, 4-7) crept back with a bucket from senior forward Ishmael Townsend, a three-pointer from junior guard Rudy Tellez and a basket from junior guard Gregory Deed.

After that, it was all La Mirada, which went on a 12-0 run the remainder of the half, then began the second half on an 11-0 run. A free throw from Townsend with 3:31 left in the third quarter ended the scoring drought. Norwalk didn’t get its first field goal of the second half until almost two minutes later, courtesy of junior forward Emmanuel Lateju.

Tellez came off the bench to lead Norwalk with eight points while Deed and junior guard David Suarez each added five points. Sophomore forward Jordan Volpei, who had scored 27, 25 and 27 points again in each of his last three games in succession, was held to only a first quarter three-pointer.

Meanwhile, the Matadores were paced by Kendall Lauderdale’s 15 points, which was a far cry from the 18 points he scored in the first half alone on Jan. 14, a 77-18 La Mirada victory.

“We knew we were going to have to score to even be in the game and I think holding them to 28 points at the half was ideal for us,” Webster said. “But we needed to get to at least 20 or 22. The defense was really good in the first half. We limited the transition, we limited the turnovers for the most part and we were able to get a lot of stops.”

Norwalk entered its regular season finale at Bellflower on Feb. 13 tied for fourth place with Artesia. The Lancers and Pioneers split their games this season, both teams winning on the road.

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