By Steve Ramirez
Bonita High School’s girls basketball team has played second fiddle to Diamond Ranch the past few years. But thanks to senior guard Taylor Anderson, that might change this season. Anderson’s rebound follow with two seconds left and her ensuing steal of an inbound pass lifted the host Bearcats to a dramatic 50-48 victory over their recent nemesis in a key Hacienda League game on Monday.
Bonita, getting 14 points each from Anderson and freshman Nikki Wheatley and eight from senior Madison Zylstra, improved to 17-2 overall and 6-0 in league. Diamond Ranch, getting 20 points from junior forward Chelsea Barnes and 15 from junior Erika Williams, slipped to 9-9 and 5-1.
“This is huge,” Anderson said. “We haven’t beaten Diamond Ranch in a long time, so we knew we had to come out here and show them who wanted it more and we all worked really hard. It feels good.”
But it wasn’t feeling that way late.
The Bearcats, coming off a last-second loss to area stalwart Bishop Amat during Saturday’s Southern California Shootout at Azusa Pacific, saw Diamond Ranch rally from 13-point deficit in the first half and take a 48-47 lead on a 3-point play by Barnes with 2:22 to play.
Anderson, who scored 11 of her 14 points in the first half, then took over. She made one of two free throws with 48 seconds left to tie it 48-48 and blocked Cayla Freeman’s shot with 17 seconds to give Bonita a chance for a victory.
Zylstra’s shot from the top of the key was short with about eight seconds left, but Anderson was there for the easy putback for a 50-48 lead with two seconds remaining. She then stole Tyvette White’s inbound pass to seal it.
“Taylor was in the right spot at the right time,” Bonita coach Darrin Baumunk said. “Taylor Anderson is so good at being at the basket, whether it be shooting the ball or if she doesn’t shoot the ball.
“She’s always going to attack the basket and be at the one spot.”
Bonita looked like it might run away with this meeting of the Hacienda’s best by scoring the final eight points of the first quarter to lead 18-10.
Anderson then sank a 3-pointer early in the second quarter before Zylstra and Jaclyn Smith combined on three free throws for a 27-13 advantage.
But Diamond Ranch refused to go away quietly and, keyed by Barnes, the Panthers made a solid push at the lead.
The Panthers, getting a three-point play by Barnes and 3-pointers by Williams and Deanna Alvarez, made it 32-23 at halftime before outscoring Bonita 15-7 in the third quarter to trail 39-38.
“Our kids played hard,” Diamond Ranch coach Mike James said. “Our talk at halftime was about communicating on defense, not giving them easy shots and execution on offense.”
They got much of the latter, especially in the fourth quarter when Diamond Ranch forged ahead in the final minutes.
Barnes used a driving layup to convert a three-point play to tie it 43-43 with 4:21 to go before giving Diamond Ranch a 48-47 lead at 2:22 with another three-point play.
But Bonita also fought back.
“We hung tough,” Baumunk said. “We showed at the end of the game what type of team we are.
“We easily could have folded when they got the lead, we easily could have gone in the tank. We didn’t. We played good defense and got the stop to give us the chance to win it.”
Anderson then came up with the play of the game to give Bonita its biggest victory in the past two seasons.
“Diamond Ranch, since we came in the league, has always been the top team in the league,” Baumunk said. “Was it a pretty win? No, but for us to get over the hump of beating them is a big step for us.”