High School Boys Basketball: California lines up Los Altos in victory

California’s Jake Mata, right, loses the ball in a collision with Los Altos’ Christian Espinoza during Thursday’s game in the Covina Christmas Tournament. California won, 69-53. (Keith Durflinger / Staff Photographer)

By John Sherrard, Correspondent

COVINA – You can always go home.

And that’s exactly where California head coach Jason Van Duyne went Thursday night in a quarterfinal game of the 59th annual Covina High School Christmas Tournament.

Van Duyne, who played basketball at Covina, watched his team defeat Los Altos, 69-53, in a game featuring two different halves.

After holding a 27-26 lead after two quarters the Condors pulled away, particularly at the free-throw line, and cruised to their ninth victory of the season against four losses.

Los Altos fell to 7-4.

California was a perfect 9 for 9 in the third quarter and 7 of 9 in the fourth quarter on free throws.

The Condors will play Damien, a 77-74 overtime winner over Northview, tonight at 7 p.m. in the championship semifinals.

In the other semifinal game, Rowland, a 66-29 winner over Bishop Amat, will play the winner of the Covina/La Salle game tonight at 8:30.

“I went to Covina High School in the mid 90s and played varsity basketball with (Covina coach) Willie Bissman,” Van Duyne said.

“So to come back here in this tournament and be successful really is important to me.”

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High School Girls Basketball: El Rancho girls can’t quite catch up to Rialto

By Eric Terrazas, SGVN

MONTEBELLO – El Rancho High School’s last-minute comeback fell just short in a 57-55 loss to Rialto in Thursday’s quarterfinals of the Cardinal Classic girls basketball tournament hosted by Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary.

The Dons (12-2), trailing 57-50, scored five consecutive points. El Rancho had one last possession with 12.5 seconds remaining in regulation, but Rialto’s Brittany Neely secured the Knights’ victory by grabbing a defensive rebound off El Rancho’s game-tying attempt.

The 1-2 punch of Patty Ayala and Khadidja Diakite paced the Dons. Ayala scored a game-high 25 points while Diakite had 22.

El Rancho will play a consolation game today against Cantwell at 5:30 p.m. Cantwell fell to Bishop Montgomery in another quarterfinal.

Thursday’s meeting marked El Rancho’s second game against Rialto this season. At last week’s Las Vegas Tournament, the Dons defeated Rialto 57-47 in the semifinals. El Rancho went on to capture first place in that tournament with a 53-48 triumph over Castlemont.

“We played them in Vegas.” El Rancho coach Randy Shigezane said. “We were familiar with them and they were familiar with us. It was one of those things; it’s hard to beat a team twice in a week. We did our best. We played pretty well. We just came up two points short.

“We didn’t make enough shots and Rialto is very tough.”

Miya Arrington led Rialto with 19 points. Neely had 18.

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High School Boys, Girls Basketball: Area teams getting busy with tournaments

By Eric Terrazas, SGVN

Several local high school teams will take part in tournament action this week.

The Cantwell Sacred Heart girls basketball team is hosting its annual Cardinal Classic, which started Saturday.

The 32-team field includes Cantwell, El Rancho, Santa Fe and Whittier. Games will be played at Cantwell and St. Matthias in Downey.

Whittier, Santa Fe and Cantwell all started tournament play on Saturday with victories in the bracket-style event.

Santa Fe, which defeated Mayfair 41-40, will play the winner of Wednesday’s Mountain View-Bishop Montgomery game on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Cantwell.

Whittier, a winner over Azusa, will face either San Pedro or St. Mary’s on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. at Cantwell.

The host Cardinals, who opened with a win over Nogales, will take on either Price or El Segundo on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Cantwell.

El Rancho will begin its tournament run on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. against Ramona Convent. That game will be played at St. Matthias.

Read more:  High School Boys, Girls Basketball: Area teams getting busy with tournaments

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High School Football: St. Paul names Rick Zepeda as new coach

By Eric Terrazas, SGVN

St. Paul High School named Rick Zepeda as its new football coach, according to school officials.

Zepeda will take over a Swordsmen team that went 1-9 overall and 0-5 in the Mission League last season.

The Swordsmen, who were ranked No. 1 in the Daily News preseason poll, had gone into 2012 with high expectations. But they struggled through a dismal year that resulted in the firing of head coach Elijah Asante during the season.

Casey Morales, the school’s athletic director, took over the head coaching duties and finished the season.

Zepeda, who graduated from St. Paul in 1988, previously served as head coach at El Rancho for four years (2008-11) before working as the defensive coordinator at St. John Bosco last season.

Read more:  High School Football: St. Paul names Rick Zepeda as new coach

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High School Girls Basketball Preview: St. Paul hopeful for successful season

St. Paul’s Holly Shafer is one of the top players for the Swordsmen, who have high expectations this season. (Keith Durflinger / Staff Photographer)

By Eric Terrazas, SGVN

After advancing to last year’s CIF-Southern Section Division 4A girls basketball semifinals, St. Paul High School has high hopes for the 2012-13 season.

The Swordsmen, who lost to Brentwood 49-41 in the semifinals the previous season, are ranked No. 2 in the Division 4A preseason poll. They have started strong, posting an 8-2 record before Thursday’s nonleague game against Serra.

Senior power forward Holly Shafer, who averaged 14 points and eight rebounds per game last season, helps lead a Swordsmen team that also features senior guard Priscilla Hidalgo, senior forward Cassidy Carrillo and guards Shannon Cruz-Canul, Clarissa Hernandez and Clarissa Perez.

“We’re playing pretty well,” St. Paul coach Robert Miller said. “We won a tournament (Norwalk) and finished second in another tournament (Leon Davis Classic at Whittier Christian). We’re feeling good about our ability to compete.”

After posting an 0-8 record in the tough Del Rey League last year, the Swordsmen (17-15 overall in 2011-12) have switched to the Camino Real League. They start league play against Cantwell Sacred Heart on Jan. 8.

The Camino Real schedule also figures to be a challenge for the Swordsmen. The league also features St. Monica and Cantwell-Sacred Heart, which are ranked No. 1 and No. 7 respectively in the Division 4A preseason poll.

“It’s a strong league,” Miller said. “We’re excited and it’s going to be fun.”

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High School Boys Basketball Preview: Cantwell looks to take final step

Jose Estrada, right, is one of the leading players this season for Cantwell-Sacred Heart, ranked No. 1 by the Whittier Daily News. (Keith Birmingham / Staff Photographer)

By Eric Terrazas, SGVN

The Cantwell Sacred Heart High School’s boys basketball team put together an impressive run last year in finishing with a 27-6 overall record and advancing to the CIF-Southern Section Division 4A championship game.

The Cardinals, who fell to Pacific Hills 65-42 in the 4A final, are hoping to clear that hurdle this season. They are ranked No. 1 by the Daily News and No. 5 in the CIF-SS Division 4A preseason poll.

George Zedan’s squad has started the 2012-13 season strong with a 6-2 record.

The backcourt duo of senior Jose Estrada and junior Joey Covarrubias lead the way for the Cardinals.

Estrada is averaging a team-high 16.1 points per game. Covarrubias ranks second at 11.5 points per game.

Junior guard Emiliano Mejia also has played a key role while averaging 9.5 points per game. Sophomore forward Balsa Dragovic is the Cardinals’ leading rebounder at 7.3 per game.

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High School Boys Basketball: Gabrielino cruises past St. Paul in tournament semifinal

Eli Peters of Gabrielino dribbles around a St. Paul defender in semifinal action of the Titan Pride Classic on Thursday. Peters scored 21 points in the Eagles’ 68-32 victory. (Christopher Burt)

By Eric Terrazas, Staff Writer

WHITTIER – Gabrielino High School took control quickly and went on to a 68-32 victory over St. Paul in Thursday’s semifinal game of the Titan Pride Classic boys basketball tournament.

The 1-2 punch of Tyler Shimamoto and Eli Peters led the Eagles (6-3), who advance to Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. championship game against Price at Pioneer High. Price beat Brea Olinda 63-42 in Thursday’s other semifinal.

Shimamoto paced the Eagles’ attack by scoring 23 points while Peters added 21.

The Eagles, who seized momentum instantly by taking a 21-6 lead after one quarter, strengthened their hold by grabbing a 35-9 advantage going into halftime.

St. Paul (3-4) will play in the third-place game against Brea Olinda, at 6 p.m. Saturday at Pioneer.

Peters and Shimamoto each scored 12 points to lead the Eagles’ first-half effort. Gabrielino’s defense also played a major role, holding the Swordsmen to no field goals during the second quarter.

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High School Girls Soccer: Bishop Amat blanks La Serna 1-0

By John Sherrard, Correspondent

WHITTIER – The Bishop Amat and La Serna high school girls soccer teams have taken similar roads recently in the CIF-Southern Section postseason.

Both were CIF-SS runner-ups last season and each have won a championship in different divisions.

Bishop Amat (5-2-1), however, got the upper hand Thursday with a late goal to pull out a 1-0 win over host La Serna in a nonleague game.

“The girls stepped it up (Thursday) and defensively we played really well,” Bishop Amat coach Ruben Gonzalez said.

“Neither of these teams deserved to lose, but we’ll take the win.”

With less than six minutes remaining, Amat senior defender Demi Lomeli took a corner kick from senior midfielder Yazmin Montoya and knocked the ball in with her shin, just two yards in front of the far post for the game’s lone goal in the 74th minute.

Prior to the goal, Montoya took a corner from the same spot but the La Serna defense knocked the ball away.

“I was hoping it (ball) would come back, because I knew there was open space in the back,” Lomeli said, who scored her first goal of the season. “She (Montoya) crossed it and I thought it was coming in slow motion toward me. I was just sprinting in, hoping I could get anything since it was a tough game and I just threw myself and my left leg hit it.”

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High School Boys Basketball: La Mirada rally falls short

La Mirada High’s Khalil Stevenson puts up a jumper during Wednesday’s game against Capistrano Valley in the North Orange County Championships at Sonora High. La Mirada lost, 58-50. (Leo Jarzomb / Staff Photographer)

By Eric Terrazas, SGVN

LA HABRA – La Mirada High School’s comeback fell short in a 58-50 loss to Capistrano Valley in Wednesday’s pool-play game of the North Orange County Championships at Sonora High.

Khalil Stevenson scored a game-high 16 points for the Matadores (6-2), who finished second in their pool and will play today at 6 p.m. in a consolation bracket game at Troy High.

The trio of Jake Virnig, Jacob Short and Ayman Farah led the victorious Cougars (2-6), who captured first place in the three-team pool.

After falling behind 51-41 in the fourth quarter, La Mirada made a late push by going on a 9-3 run that cut the Cougars’ lead to 54-50.

Charlie Reid paced the Matadores’ surge by scoring four points.

Stevenson also made a three-pointer during the Matadores’ rally.

La Mirada, however, did not draw closer as the Cougars scored the game’s last four points. They included a key lay-up from Sebastian Strickler and Virnig’s two free throws.

Shaky free-throw shooting also hurt the Matadores, who converted just one of 10 chances from the free-throw line.

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High School Notebook: La Habra girls hope to ride momentum into league

By Eric Terrazas, SGVN

La Habra High School captured first place at the recent Lady Highlanders Classic girls basketball tournament.

The Highlanders (8-1) defeated Thousand Oaks 60-53 in Friday’s championship game. Amy Wilbourn paced the Highlanders with 23 points.

Wilbourn, who earned tournament most valuable player honors, also had five rebounds, five assists and eight steals against Thousand Oaks.

Highlanders teammates Allyson O’Brien and Megan Chancellor also were named to the all-tournament team.

“It was a competitive game,” La Habra coach Jim Bohn said. “We definitely played very well on both sides of the court.

“We were tested in a lot of those games. It’s a good development for us as we move forward into (the Freeway) league.”

La Habra started its tournament run by beating Rowland 57-33 on Dec. 3.

The Highlanders followed that up with victories over Capistrano Valley 54-42 and Eagle Rock 60-39 before besting Thousand Oaks.

The Highlanders next host La Serna in a nonleague game at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. Then they open league Dec. 20 at Sonora.

“It’s a tough league to play in,” Bohn said. “In all of our games, our team has played very well. Our goal is to give our best when we step on the court.”

O’Brien leads the Highlanders in scoring by averaging 25.9 points per game. Wilbourn averages 13.3 points and 5.3 steals.

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