By Miguel A. Melendez Staff Writer
LYNWOOD — The Keppel High School girls basketball team couldn’t convert with 2.5 seconds left in the game as Lynwood escaped with a 62-60 win Tuesday night in the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2AA playoffs.
It was the second consecutive game that No. 1 seed Keppel (27-4) faced an opportunity to win the game with a last-second shot attempt. Alyson Lock went coast-to-coast in the quarterfinals and converted the layup as time expired while Canyon of Canyon Country attempted to inbound the ball.
This time the chance barely presented itself as Keppel heaved a pass to mid-court. The catch wasn’t made in time and the Aztecs couldn’t control possession as time expired.
Lock was fouled with 56.5 seconds left in the game and converted two free throws to tie the game 60-60 after being fouled on a steal off a Lynwood inbounds pass.
Lynwood (24-4) missed two free throws on the ensuing possession and after a series possession exchanges that included two Keppel misses, Lynwood’s Jazmine Johnson scored the winning basket on a running layup with 3.1 seconds left in the game.
Keppel coach Hon Trieu called a timeout with 2.5 seconds left in the game to formulate a plan, but to no avail. It was the Aztecs’ second consecutive year of reaching the semifinals under Trieu, who is in his second season at the helm. Keppel will likely make the CIF State playoffs when the pairings are announced on Sunday.
Lock split a double team for a layup to make it 60-55 with 3:38 left in the fourth quarter. Then with 2:52 left in the game, Lynwood coach Ellis Barfield was issued a technical foul for cursing at an official. Keppel’s Samantha Lee, who finished with seven points, made 1 of 2 free throws to make it 60-56. Keppel’s Sandra Gao then hit a layup to make it 60-58 with 2:47 left.
Keppel forced Lynwood to attempt an off-balance shot with a second left on the shot clock. The attempt missed and Keppel called a timeout with 1:40 left in the game. The Aztecs on the ensuing possession missed a 3-point attempt folowed by Lynwood’s Amber Blockmon getting fouled with 1:02 left in the game. She missed both free throws but the Knights maintained possession after the Aztecs couldn’t control the ball under the basket as the ball went out of bounds with 1:00 left in the game. But it wouldn’t matter as Lock would make a steal before being fouled. She hit both free throws for the Aztecs’ final scoring.
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“They didn’t give up when things got rough,” Trieu said. “They could have easily just folded. They didn’t.
“Tonight they showed me so much heart. So much passion. And I love them so much for that. They always said, ‘You’re never going to bea these tall girls. We’ve beaten a bunch of tall girls. We almost beat another Goliath today.”
Lynwood was led by T’keya Mason’s 16 points. Blockmon, a 6-foot-2 junior forward, finished with 10 points.
Lynwood may be the No. 5 seed in the division, but the Knights are ranked 65th in the nation, and 14th in the state. And Keppel gave them a formidable challenge from the start, and didn’t succumb despite facing a 10-point deficit, 51-41, with 1:20 left in the third quarter.
Lock finsihed with a game-high 32 points, but it wasn’t an easy start for the junior guard. She picked up two quick fouls with 2:56 left in the first quarter. The game was tied at 17-17 after the first quarter.
Lock hit seven quick points on two turnaround jumpers and a three-pointer from the top of the key to give Keppel a 24-19 lead with 5:21 left in the second quarter. Lynwood turned the ball over on ensuing possession, only to watch freshman point guard Lauren Saiki hit two consecutive floaters for a 28-21 lead with 4:29.
Lynwood missed six consecutive shots before Jolana Ford hits a layup and converts the three-point play with 3:01 left in the second quarter, and despite the rough start to the quarter the Knights still ended it on a 9-0 run to take a 30-28 lead at the half.
Gao, who suffered a bloody nose with 4:02 left in the game, finished with 12 points. Saiki finished with nine points and Samantha Lee added seven points.
Keppel could make a run in the state playoffs. But for now, this loss might linger until Sunday.
Saiki took the loss especially hard. The freshman guard was the last player to exit the locker room, flanked by Trieu and the rest of his coaching staff.
“I love her passion, her heart,” Trieu said. “She eats and breaths basketball. I thought she did exceptional today. But we’re not done. It’s not over.