By Steve Ramirez, Staff Writer
LA VERNE – Diamond Ranch High School might be without standout Janelle Kearney, but the Panthers still are quite formidable. Chelsea Barnes scored a game-high 15 points and Erika Williams had 13, and visiting Diamond Ranch took control of a tight game in the fourth quarter en route to a 44-31 victory over Bonita in a key Miramonte League game Wednesday. (To continue reading, click thread)
The Panthers, who have lost Kearney for an indefinite period because of a sprained knee, improved to 15-2 overall and 2-0 in league. Bonita, getting 10 points from Brianna Kennedy and nine from Taylor Anderson, slipped to 17-2 and 2-1.
“Our defense kept us in the game,” said Diamond Ranch coach Mike James, whose team forced 21 turnovers. “We stepped it up in the second half, and in the fourth quarter when it’s crunch time, our seniors took over.
“It was nice to have players pick up the slack. Our philosophy has been, with Janelle out, we have to pick up the slack, collectively. And that’s what we did tonight.”
But for a while Bonita, which was outscored 131-61 in two games against Diamond Ranch, hung tough and prevented most of the back-court turnovers that resulted in a 58-18 loss to the Panthers last season.
The Bearcats were held without a field goal in the first quarter, but they got into a rhythm near the end of the first half. They used layups by Anderson to trail just 14-11 at halftime before taking their only lead, 15-14, on back-to-back baskets by Kennedy with 6:06 left in the third quarter.
“I think our girls understood, after last year and in the playoffs against Monrovia that we can play with these guys,” Bonita coach Darren Baumunk said. “We just have to have the confidence. It’s just confidence.
“The first quarter we came out and it was turnover, turnover, turnover. The second quarter we settled down and played even with them. The third quarter we played even with them.”
But Bonita, which tied it at 23 on a Kennedy putback with 27 seconds left in the third, couldn’t overcome a Diamond Ranch flurry to begin the fourth quarter.
Erica Greer, who scored 10 of her 11 points in the second half, got the Panthers rolling on an 11-2 run with a 3-pointer for a 26-23 lead with 6:59 left in the game. Williams then followed a Kennedy miss with a fast- break layup for a 28-23 lead with 5:01 left before a Barnes 3-point play on a putback gave the Panthers breathing room at 31-23 with 4:10 to play.
Diamond Ranch had five looks at the basket in the sequence following consecutive rebounds by Ariana Caffey, Williams, Patrice Patterson and Barnes, whose follow fell before being fouled. She made the free throw for an eight-point advantage.
Williams, after a Jaclyn Smith basket, then pushed it to 34-25 with a 3-point play at 3:43.
“The two possessions that killed us was the 3-pointer (by Greer) and then they got (five) chances on the rebound and converted that 3-point play,” Baumunk said. “And just like that they’re up (eight) after being tied. That was the key.”
The Panthers made six of eight free throws down the stretch to seal it and go up 44-31 with 10 seconds to play.
“This was kind of an awkward game,” James said. “It was our first league game playing without Janelle, and it wasn’t the one we would want her to miss, but the other kids stepped up and played well.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well in the first half, but we went from just shooting jumpers to attacking the basket. Chelsea is pretty tough to deal with in the post, Erika Williams is tough to deal with in the post, so we got them touches and let them do what they do.”
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