By Clay Fowler, Staff Writer
Amy Campbell doesn’t often mention the Ayala girls basketball team’s Sierra League winning streak that reached 49 games with Wednesday’s 50-37 victory over Claremont. Most of the players on this year’s team have been part of only the last three. The same goes for Campbell, who is in her first year as Ayala head coach following Mel Sims’ long tenure.
“Six players graduated from last year’s team and one transferred,” Campbell said of the Bulldogs team that reached the CIF semifinals. “These are kids that haven’t played much varsity basketball. We’re very young.”
Nevertheless, an Ayala team with two seniors and no juniors has carried its league win streak into a sixth consecutive season. (To continue click thread).
One of those seniors, Sharon Lee, led the way with 20 points in the third league game for the Bulldogs (5-12, 3-0) while sophomore tri-captain Christa Carrillo added 18 in a contest Ayala led by 20 less than a minute into the fourth quarter.
Rebecca Ireland spearheaded a late Claremont push with seven of her team-high 11 points in a fourth quarter during which the Wolfpack (10-8, 1-2) surpassed its three-quarter total of 18 points.
“We could have stayed a lot closer if we would have made some lay-ups,” Claremont coach Darryl Kennedy said. “Don’t take anything away from Ayala. They came in here and did what they needed to do, but we didn’t help ourselves very much.”
Claremont pulled within four at 5:42 of the second quarter, but Ayala began to pull away with an 8-0 run that gave the Bulldogs a 23-11 advantage 2:07 before halftime.
When Carrillo made a pair of free throws with 41 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Ayala stretched its lead to 19 points thanks in large part to holding Claremont without a field goal during the quarter. By the time Carrillo, a 6-foot sophomore, scored her eighth consecutive point, Ayala’s lead reached 20 points early in the fourth quarter.
“We’re young, but we’ve played a tough schedule that helped prepare us for league,” Campbell said. “We’ll definitely go to CIF. We’re playing for one of the top two spots in the league.”
Claremont may not contend for a playoff berth this season but the future may be bright, thanks to freshman point guard Jessica Abrolat, who had five points and four assists for the Wolfpack. Abrolat’s lay-up as she was fouled with 6:25 to play pulled Claremont within 15 points but the Wolfpack got no closer until the final minute of the game.
“This is a tough league and we’re brand new to it,” Kennedy said. “We’ll be all right next year. We’ve just got to mature a little bit.”
The future certainly is bright for an Ayala team that will graduate just two players over the next two seasons. The Bulldogs, however, are hoping the future is now.
Looming on the league schedule is a date with an experienced Chino Hills team that has finished second to Ayala three years running. The Huskies currently are the only other team undefeated in league play.
After Ayala takes on St. Lucy’s tonight, the Bulldogs’ next league game is Wednesday against Chino Hills, which has won each of its first two league games by 30 points.
“Chino Hills has eight seniors, so they’re going to be hard to beat,” Campbell said. “But if every team that was supposed to win did that, we wouldn’t have a reason to play the games.”