By Stephen Ramirez
@SteveRRamirez on Twitter
WALNUT — For the Bonita High School girls basketball team, the question is not if it will win the Hacienda League title, but whether it will be challenged.
The Bearcats got an answer Wednesday, but not quite the one head coach Darren Baumunk was looking for, after he was forced to reinsert his starters during the fourth quarter to secure a 60-50 victory over host Walnut.
Nikki Wheatley scored 21 points and Kandyce Smith had 14 as Bonita, ranked No. 9 in CIF-Southern Section Division IAA, improved to 16-1 overall and 3-0 in the Hacienda League. Walnut, getting 11 points each from Kim Mayekawa and Britney Yee, slipped to 9-6 and 1-1.
Bonita, also getting 11 points from Ariana Abo, blitzed Walnut early. The Bearcats closed the first quarter with a 15-3 surge to lead 24-8 before enjoying leads of 37-19 at halftime and 46-20 early in the third quarter.
The game got interesting down the stretch.
Bonita coach Darren Baumunk: “I was pleased with how we played the beginning. “We got off to a quick start, which was the first time this year we’ve gotten to that quick of a start. We pushed the ball and got to play our tempo early, and it got to a point where we (could insert the younger players). It was a struggle for them, and they have to understand it’s not going to be the last time to show what they can do. They have to step up.”
Bonita’s Nikki Wheatley: “We have a solid team. We struggled a little bit (in the second half), so we had to go back in. But I think the other girls did good, they just have to work on their passing a bit. I think it was a solid win, all around.”