Stahl, who finished with 17 points, converted free throws to sealed the victory with 3.7 seconds left on the clock.
This stretched the Crusaders’ lead to six points, this put the game out of reach.
  Seconds before, Covina guard Robbie Burgess hit one of four 3-pointers to cut Valley Christian’s comfortable eight-point lead to 59-54.
  The Crusaders (13-6) had to rally from nine points down in the third quarter and entered the fourth stanza down 47-42.
  Point guard TJ Waters, who harassed opposing guards throughout the game, drove the lanes to break down the defense more to get the ball into his big men for inside points and to generate points from the free-throw line.
  “I didn’t want to go home,’’  Waters said about trailing in the third quarter. “I was thinking about getting this win and getting to the semifinals. I thought about getting buckets inside the paint, getting more fouls inside, just get to the free-throw line.’’
  Shooting guard Nathan Medina, who had scored 14 points in the first half (four 3-pointers), went cold in the third period, but found his stroke in the fourth, scoring his game-high 20 points. In fact, during a critical stretch, he, Stahl, and Micheal's wright hit 4 of the team’s 12 3-pointers.  Wright finished with eight points and Micah Sybesma added nine for Valley Christian.
“It was a tough game,’’ said Medina. “Our goal, on our home floor, was to play and have fun.  We wanted to come out as a unit and show everyone what we’ve got.  Last year, we got bounced out early. People were doubting us this year.
  “I feel we came together as a unit, and it was a tough game at home, he continued. “The crowd helped us rally back… It was good to have a home win.”


BIG SHOT:  Stahl hit 1 of her 2 back-to-back 3-pointers in the Crusaders' victory.


STRETCHING THE D:  Michael Wright delivers from outside to help Crusaders win.


THE GREAT WALL:  The Wolverines put of a wall of defenders to deny Rayah Marshall easy baskets in the lane. The basketball hybrid still managed to score 27 points.

AiR ASSAULT: Briliiyah Taylor of Lynwood scores 2 of her 11 points in the Knights' lose to Harvard Westlake Saturday.

 “I feel tired and excited,’’ Iriafen said. “We got this huge win. I really enjoyed playing against Rayah. She is a great player so I tried to stop her.
  “She is a great shot blocker so I had to work on doing pump-fakes,’’ Iriafen continued. “Honestly, I came in thinking about just dominating today. If we could slow down Rayah, we knew we could win this game.’’
  The Wolverines swarmed around Marshall every time she put the ball down to attack in the paint.
Although the strategy was to hold Marshall to 16 points, the Wolverines failed in that department. The senior point-forward, who signed with USC, tallied 27 points on acrobatic layups, put-backs and jumpers in the lane. Her shots from the arc missed the mark. She snared more than a dozen rebounds.  Senior point guard Briliyah Taylor had 11 points.  
  Jada Turner, a relentless defender who fouled out in the third quarter, finished with six points, and Jaushlynn Ruffin had seven for Lynwood, which will take on Mater Dei on the road Wednesday at 7 p.m.
  “Kiki came ready to go,’’ Harvard Westlake coach Melissa Hearlihy said. “Thing about her, she is a lot different than most post players. We would shoot the ball, and she would sprint to the other side to get the rebound. For her, as a rebounder, that’s what makes her special.
  “She did a real good job from shooting outside,’’ continued. “She doesn’t normally do it because we have her back to the basket. Today, Rayah pushed her out and I think she did a nice job. That’s what she is going to have to do at the next level.
  “We tried to contain Rayah, and I don’t think we did a great job of that. What we did was good was contain everybody else.
  “We knew she was going to get 20-something points.”
What the Knights may not have anticipated? “Running the floor, I think that’s what we do well,’’ Hearlihy said. “I think early on, that kind of surprised them a little bit.’’
  Throughout the game, Lynwood pressed them from one end of the court to the next often trailing the guards. Guards drove the lanes for uncontested layups, to either find teammates for open jumpers or tear-drop points in the paint. Kimiko Katzaroff added 14 points, and Melissa Zozulenko had eight for the Wolverines, who tipoff against Etiwanda Wednesday.




Lakewood (12-5) held at  35-29 at halftime and gradually pulled away in the second half to win by 13 points.  Yet, there were instances when Lakewood didn’t handle the ball to coach Duane Cooper’s satisfaction.  “It was out of character,’’ he said.
  Maila, who was also a force on the boards, said, “We got down a couple possessions. The momentum kind of change.
  “We didn’t change our mentally, ‘’ he continued. “We have to put a foot on their throats and not let (up). We could have easily put our heads down because we were down a couple points, but we didn’t. We kept pushing through.”
  For the most part, they played with poise under relentless pressure.  Every time Lawndale, stole balls, mounted runs, the Lancers didn’t become rattled.
  Daniel Jackson, Lawndale’s leader, did everything he could to keep the Cardinals in the contest. The shooting guard’s size and length made it difficult for the smaller Lancer guards from scoring in the paint and around the perimeter. He finished with 17 points. His teammates Elijah Groves had 13 points, and Joshua McCarty finished with 10.
  “We started out slow,’’ said Willis, who brought calmness and steadiness to the court. “Once we started playing (better defense) we won the game. It’s a good win. It gives us motivation. We have won a championship in (a while). We are trying to win a championship.”


BIG D: Lakewood's stingy defense thwarted the Cardinal's comeback attempts throughout their clash in the South Bay.



   Once again, Marshall had another dibble-digit performance. This time she lit up the nets for 37 points, corralled 24 rebounds (11 offensive), and blocked three shots. Briliyah Taylor, the senior point guard, added 12 and six assists for Lynwood (15-1, 10-0).    

    “Rayah is a good leader, an outstanding player The team definitely depends on her,’’ Barfield said. “The team has had to piggyback on her on several occasions. This was one of those nights where she really represented. This is not even her best game. That’s yet to come.’’  

     Marshall, McDonald’s All-American, was practically unstoppable. Short-range jumpers around the paint, rebound put-backs, acrobatic layups off the drive, turnaround jumpers in the lane, tip-ins, and 3-pointers, the hybrid USC signee did it all.  In the fourth quarter, the senior accounted for 16 of the Lady Knights’ 20 points.   

      Eagles scored 19 in the final stanza.  Kennedy Smith did her best to keep the Eagles, who were missing several key players, close. She had 23 points, the only player in the lineup to score in double figures.  

     The Lady Knights’ stingy—in—your—face defense— kept everyone else in check. They relentlessly pursued the ball for 32 minutes.  Jada Turner, who fouled out of the game just before the third quarter ended, combined with Taylor for 4 out of Lynwood’s 5 steals. They took a plethora of charges. Etiwanda had its share of charges and block shots.   

    The Eagles (15-2, 10-0) were short-handed. Jessica Peterson, a 6-foot-3 center who signed with Fresno State, quit the team, a squad plagued with a plethora of injuries to starting players.    “She would have been Jessica Peterson’s assignment before she departed our program. Not having her put our freshman in this situation,’’ Delus said. “She quit the team because I called a 6 a.m. practice session on prom day.  

   “Our best player, Daisia Mitchell, broke her leg three weeks ago. Majesty Cade played with a semi-concussion. Destiny Agubata didn’t play at all because of a concussion,’’ he added.   “We tried to give it the best we could. I can honestly say that our future is bright, but currently, we're in chaos. You know, no matter what, the game is unforgiving. There are no excuses. I have a week to prepare my young kids.’’  

     The Lady Knights wanted another game against a top-ranked high school girls basketball team leading into the grand finale of the regular season the CIF Southern Section.    They need to squeeze it into their tight schedule before the release of the CIF-SS girl's basketball pairing Sunday at noon.      

     Before this loss, Orangewood Academy was the only blemish on the Eagle’s record. They escaped with a victory over Harvard-Westlake (60-55), and then steamrolled Rosary Academy (66-42) and Bonita Vista (63-41), respectively. At one point, they were ranked in Cal High Sports State Top 25 Rankings.  The Lady Knights, who were listed No. 18 at the beginning of the season, has now knocked off two of the top-ranked teams in the CIF-SS and top 25 in the state: Sierra Canyon (No. 17) and Etiwanda (No. 6).  

    “The good thing about today was our kids got an early test of the playoffs. It gives them at least a feel (of what it is like), Delus said. “I am proud of Kennedy because she is showing she is the best freshman in the country, not just the state. She is a 5-star talent.’’   

   What did Barfield say about defeating Etiwanda?   “We were here last year (in the playoffs), and it left a bad taste in our mouths,’’ Barfield said. “The kids kind of redeemed themselves far as getting out there and getting the win.’’


Earlier in the short season, some of Lady Knights looked like they hadn’t played basketball since the team’s loss in the second round of the 2020 CIF SoCal Regional Playoffs to King High, a season that was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
  This season, against Orangewood Academy, they couldn’t guard their shadows. Offensively, they struggled. They hadn’t had enough gym time. Nor could they practice until the Lynwood Unified School District gave the Lady Knights the approval. The late start set the team conditioning, team building and floor execution far back.
  This wasn’t the case Thursday,
     In the fourth quarter, Lynwood (14-1 overall, 9-0 in the San Gabriel Valley League, began to gradually pull away, but not without a good fight from the younger Sierra Canyon team that lost six NCAA Division I teams from last season’s squad and a total of 10.  The Lady Knights outscored the Trailblazers 26-14, fending off every rally by Sierra Canyon (16-4).  
  Mackenly Randolph finished with 29 points to lead the Trailblazers, and Sofia Ruelas tallied 12.
  The Lady Knights had rolled into the game with two impressive victories against Troy (60-30), Bishop Montgomery (70-57) and St. Anthony (78-57). They also defeated San Gabriel Valley League foe, Downey, 54-43.  
  Sierra Canyon replaced Dominguez High, which forfeit the last SGVL of the season.  Like Lynwood, Canyon entered the contest needing to play quality games to prepare for the upcoming playoffs. They blew opponents off the floor.
    “We knew we wanted to prepare for the playoffs,’’ said Sierra Canyon coach Alicia Komaki. “At the end of our schedule, we were beating teams by 20 and 30 points, and that’s not preparing us for the playoffs.  
  “We wanted our young team to experience what it is like to compete against a senior-led team, a storied Lynwood program, to see what playoff basketball is all about. I think we got that accomplished today… We are never disappointed unless we perform poorly.’’