Hungry Muir prevails
Above: Muir’s Eliza Pierre goes up for a shot against Riverside King in the CIF-SS Division I-A quarterfinals. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Watchara Phomicinda/SXsports)
By Scott Galetti, Staff Writer
RIVERSIDE – There is drawing of a wolf at center court at King High School in Riverside.
With its sights set on winning a CIF-Southern Section championship, the Muir girls basketball team had the hunger of a wolf.
The Mustangs fed off their patented full-court defense and wore down the host Wolves in a 55-47 Division I-A quarterfinal victory Saturday night.
Muir advances to the semifinals and will host Mira Costa, a winner over Canyon Springs, on Tuesday at Pasadena High.
“I think we’re blessed to get into the semis,” Mustangs senior guard Cherrish Wallace said. “We haven’t been here in a while, so it’s a good feeling.”
Added Muir coach Gary Johnson: “I’m happy and my girls are happy, and we’re taking it one game at a time.”
Wallace took that one-game-at-a-time approach and played with hunger and desire in her eyes, and came up with the big plays when Muir (26-1) needed them the most.
She poured in a game-high 24 points, including nine in the third quarter to thwart King’s comeback bid.
“I knew my teammates trusted me that I could go out and do it and score, and I just wanted to let the game come to me and not force anything,” said Wallace, who also dished out four assists.
Muir guard-forward Eliza Pierre scored 13 points to go with four rebounds, five assists and six steals. Chrishawn Frierson scored 10, and Mustangs junior center Brittany Henderson collected six points and eight rebounds before fouling out with 2:21 to go in the fourth quarter.
“We think we play better on the road,” Wallace said.
Muir felt at home, using its patented pressure full-court defense to counter a sluggish first quarter on offense.
The Mustangs scored 10 unanswered points to turn a 6-5 deficit into a 15-6 advantage early in the second quarter and held a 27-20 halftime lead.
King (22-6) cut Muir’s lead to 36-34 late in the third quarter on a free throw by Lotolelei Franklin, but Wallace responded with back-to-back layups to give the Mustangs a 40-34 advantage heading into the final eight minutes.
Muir scored eight consecutive points to increase its lead to 48-37 with 3:06 to play and held the Wolves at bay from there.
“That’s the kind of game you want to play,” Johnson said. “The girls played hard, and they all gave 110 percent.”
Senior guard Paige Haynes led King with 20 points, and center Lotolelei Franklin was a force in the paint, scoring 17.