CSHM girls, La Mirada boys highlight Saturday’s hoops schedule

Saturday’s basketball schedule is pretty light for the Whittier area, with Cantwell-Sacred Heart playing among the girls and La Mirada for the boys.
Cantwell plays Oak Hills at 6 p.m. for third place in the Gary Houston Memorial-Arroyo Christmas Classic at Arroyo High. The Cardinals (6-3) won their pool but were beaten by Bishop Amat 50-40 in Friday’s semifinal round. Oak Hills lost to South Torrance in the other semifinal.
La Mirada will play for third place in the North Orange County Championships, facing Downey at 6 p.m. at Sonora High. The Matadores fell to 7-2 with Friday’s 62-49 semifinal loss to Sonora. Downey lost 65-45 to Anaheim Canyon on Friday.

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Pioneer, Bonita will play for Blue Pride title

After Friday’s 40-38 victory over Montebello, Pioneer’s boys basketball team will play for the championship of the Blue Pride Tournament on Saturday night at El Rancho High.
The Titans improved to 4-0 with Friday’s narrow triumph, and will face Bonita at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in El Rancho’s main gym. Bonita beat Sunny Hills 63-49 in the other semifinal, improving its record to 5-0.
Montebello and Sunny Hills will play in the third-place game at 6 p.m. St. Paul and El Rancho each played early games Saturday.

… Cantwell-Sacred Heart lost its first game of the season Friday, 58-55 vs. Loyola at the Beverly Hills Tournament. The Cardinals (6-1) trailed by 21 points entering the fourth quarter, but outscored the Cubs 21-3 and nearly came back for the victory.
Cantwell will play Beverly Hills in the third-place game at 6 p.m. Saturday.

… At the Covina Tournament on Friday night, El Rancho’s girls were held scoreless for over 5 minutes at the start of the fourth quarter and were topped by Bishop Amat 42-33 in the semifinals.
The Dons held a 27-26 lead after three quarters, but they went ice cold from the field to open the fourth. The Lancers went on a 13-0 run to open the fourth, and El Rancho didn’t score in the quarter until Sarah Gurrola’s 3-pointer with 2:44 left in the game.
The Dons (6-3) will play Cantwell (3-2) for third place at 6 p.m. at Covina High.

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Locals could meet in Covina Tournament final

A pair of area girls basketball teams will take the court Friday night at the Covina Tournament, and they could meet each other in Saturday’s final.
Cantwell-Sacred Heart will face Division 1AA opponent Bonita in the 6:30 p.m. semfinal. The Cardinals are 3-1 overall and have posted tournament victories over Covina (59-35) and Ayala (69-63). Bonita is 6-0 and led by star senior guard Nikki Wheatley.
The other local team is El Rancho, which plays the 8 p.m. game against Bishop Amat. The Dons (6-2) have beaten Miller (60-35) and South Hills (53-49) in tournament play. Bishop Amat is 3-0.
Friday’s winners will meet in Saturday’s 8 p.m. final.

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Some prognostications were pretty close, others …

If football season had to come to an end in the Whittier area, at least it went out with a game for the ages.
Last Saturday’s CIF-SS Southeast Division final between La Serna and Norwalk was an epic battle, one finally secured by La Serna, 41-38 in double overtime. The game was tied or had a lead change 11 times – ELEVEN TIMES – and three touchdowns were scored on fourth down, including the game-winner. It was a all-time classic.
In the lead-up to the game, I made a tale-of-the-tape comparison of the teams, giving an advantage to one or the other in key areas. I also listed what I thought would be keys to victory for each, and gave my prediction for the game’s outcome.
Well, late Saturday night/Sunday morning I went back and reviewed what I’d written. One some, like the outcome and what Frankie Palmer would do with the game on the line, I was right on the money. On others, like who had the special teams advantage and Palmer’s rushing yards, not so much.
Anyway, here’s another look at my pregame thoughts, and then a postgame comment.

Offensive line
La Serna:
Quick and experienced
Norwalk: Massive and well-coached
Advantage: Norwalk
Postgame: A slight edge to La Serna, which gave Palmer ample time to throw

Running attack
La Serna:
Three good backs and a mobile QB
Norwalk: Rashaad Penny, Rashaad Penny, Rashaad Penny
Advantage: Norwalk
Postgame: I still give it to Norwalk, but not by much

Passing attack
La Serna:
Lots of weapons, from the backfield and on the perimeter
Norwalk: 27 pass attempts all season
Advantage: La Serna
Postgame: I gotta go with La Serna on this, but Norwalk threw more TD passes

La Serna:
Frankie Palmer is 33-8 as a varsity starter
Norwalk: Junior Jacob Car has completed 18 of 22 throws this season
Advantage: La Serna
Postgame: Palmer is now 34-8 as a varsity starter. ‘Nuff said

Defensive line
La Serna:
Quick and relentless
Norwalk: Very, very large
Advantage: La Serna
Postgame: La Serna held Penny to 6 yards or less on 20 of 23 carries

La Serna:
Daniel Campos and Luis Camacho are hard hitters
Norwalk: Aaron Armendarez is a three-year varsity player
Advantage: Draw
Postgame: Margarito Beltran calls Camacho “relentless.” It’s very accurate

La Serna:
The Lancers gave up two long TD passes last week
Norwalk: 8 of 15 interceptions came from the DBs
Advantage: Norwalk
Postgame: Norwalk averaged over 27 yards per pass completion and found the end zone twice

Special teams
La Serna:
Sophomore PK Alex Vasquez has been solid all year
Norwalk: Penny also punts and returns kicks
Advantage: Norwalk
Postgame: Norwalk mistakes on special teams led to La Serna’s biggest plays during regulation

La Serna:
Big-game experience on both sides of the ball
Norwalk: Best athlete on the field
Advantage: La Serna
Postgame: La Serna’s seniors willed that team to victory

La Serna 31, Norwalk 28
Postgame: Can’t believe I got as close as I did

La Serna will win if …
the offensive line gives QB Frankie Palmer time to find his receivers. Matthew Rosales, D’Andre Sanchez, Luis Camacho and Anthony Garcia have been consistent and reliable targets …
Postgame: It did, and they were

Palmer is NOT the La Serna’s leading rusher. Garcia has been outstanding since his JV call-up, and a big game from him or Bryce Oliver will give Palmer more time and room to throw …
Postgame: WRONG! Palmer led La Serna with 96 rushing yards, with Garcia (56) next. He also ran for three TDs and the game-tying 2-point conversion late in the fourth quarter

the defense limits Norwalk’s big plays. Allowing one long run to Rashaad Penny probably won’t decide the game. Giving up two or more will …
Postgame: Penny did have just one long run, but he scored twice on long passes as well.

the game’s outcome hinges on one final drive for the La Serna. Palmer engineered fourth-quarter, game-winning drives against Westlake and Burbank, and PK Alex Vasquez has responded when called upon.
Postgame: Again, pretty shocked at how close I came

Norwalk will win if …
it wins the turnover battle. Norwalk has forced 27 turnovers this season, and Penny has fumbled just once this season in well over 200 chances …
Postgame: Two Norwalk interceptions offset two La Serna fumbles, but the punt snap over Penny’s head tipped the scales in La Serna’s favor

Penny runs like … well, Penny. The senior went for 321 yards and scored all five Norwalk TD’s in last week’s 35-28 semifinal victory over Muir …
Postgame: When La Serna focused on stopping the run, Penny made remarkable plays in the passing game instead.

its big defensive front can keep Palmer in the pocket. Chasing a guy with his mobility can get really old really quickly …
Postgame: Norwalk had just one sack, and Palmer was on the run when he threw the game-winning TD pass to Rosales

its wins the line of scrimmage. Tonight’s game will be a classic battle of Big & Strong vs. Small and Quick.
Postgame: Kudos to La Serna’s strength and conditioning coach

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La Serna, Norwalk put on a show for the ages

It was, quite simply, one of the best sporting events I’ve ever covered.
Saturday’s CIF-SS Southeast Division football final between La Serna and Norwalk at Cal State Fullerton had it all – big plays on both sides, lead changes, fourth-down heroics and one of the most dramatic finishes in recent memory.
La Serna put to rest two years of Southeast finals frustration with Saturday’s 41-38 double overtime victory, knocking off top-seeded and previously unbeaten Norwalk when senior quarterback Frankie Palmer connected with Matthew Rosales for a 19-yard TD pass on fourth down-and-5. That capped an OT session that featured two missed PATs and what appeared to be a sure TD pass to Norwalk star Rashaad Penny that was broken up at the last second by La Serna’s Tony Ceron.
La Serna had lost the last two Southeast finals, 84-21 to West Covina in 2011 and 33-25 to Downey last year. The title is La Serna’s first since 1967 and the school’s second ever in football.
“I forgot all about the last two (losses),” La Serna coach Margarito Beltran said amid the postgame celebration.
Palmer completed 10 of 23 passes for 146 yards and the TD to Rosales. He also had TD runs of 1, 4 and 2 yards, and scored a crucial 2-point conversion late in the fourth quarter to tie the game. Beltran considered attempting a 38-yard field goal to tie the game on fourth down in the second OT, but decided to let his three-year starter make a play instead.
“(Palmer) said, ‘If you put the ball in my hands, I’ll get it done,’” Beltran said, “and that’s exactly what he did.”
Each team scored a TD in the first OT period, but both missed the resulting PAT. In the second session, Norwalk had possession first, and a Jacob Carr-to-Dillon Faamatau completion put the ball inside the 10. But La Serna’s defense stiffened, including Ceron’s touchdown-saving pass breakup, and Norwalk settled for a 21-yard field goal from Perez for a 38-35 lead.
Needing a TD to win, La Serna gained just six yards on its first three plays, and Beltran called timeout.
He briefly considered sending in Alex Vasquez for a 38-yard field goal attempt to tie the game, but wisely left Palmer in charge with the game’s outcome in the balance.
Out of the shotgun, Palmer first looked to his left, but pressure from Norwalk’s line forced him to roll right. That’s when he saw Rosales open near the 5 and got him the ball for the winning score.
“Frankie scrambled out, and I just tried to keep the route alive,” Rosales said.
The game’s two biggest plays came against Norwalk’s special teams. The first was a punt snap that sailed over Penny’s head, giving La Serna great field position late in the second quarter. On the first play from scrimmage, Kevin Ramos scored on an 8-yard run for a 21-14 halftime lead.
The second also involved Ramos, and came on a play that could have iced the game for Norwalk. With less than 3 minutes to play, Norwalk held a 29-21 lead and faced fourth down at the La Serna 3. But instead of going for it on fourth down, as he had successfully four times previously in the game, Norwalk coach Jesse Ceniceros sent place kicker Jorge Perez on the field. A successful kick would have given Norwalk a nearly insurmountable 11-point lead late in the fourth quarter.
The kick, however, was anything but successful. Ceron busted through the line to block the kick, and Ramos scooped up the ball at the 25. With nothing but teammates in front of him, Ramos raced 75 yards to put La Serna right back in the game. And when Palmer dove across the goal line to score a 2-point conversion, La Serna had somehow tied the game.
“It was all a team effort,” Ramos said of La Serna’s late-game rally. “We just said, ‘We’ve gotta bear down and do it and believe in the team.’”
Defensively, La Serna did an outstanding job against Penny, although he made several unbelievable plays throughout the game. Penny finished with 121 rushing yards, but over half of that came on a 61-yard fourth-quarter touchdown. He was held to six yards or less on 20 of his 23 carries.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound bruiser made a pair of remarkable TD catches and also blocked Vasquez’s potential game-winning PAT in the first overtime.



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