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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
WESTMINSTER-It’s hard to believe that the Valley Christian High girls basketball program, very rich in tradition with 28 league championships, 10 California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section divisional championships and nine more trips to the finals, hasn’t won a playoff game since 2011. But that’s what was staring in the eyes of the Lady Crusaders when they visited Westminster-based La Quinta High last Saturday night.
V.C. made sure that the losing streak in the playoffs would not continue as it scored the first nine points of the game and never trailed in a 59-26 win over the Aztecs. The win was the program’s first in the playoffs since knocking off Duarte 54-45 in the 2011 4A quarterfinals behind 29 points from Kari Korver. The win was also very much needed for the Lady Crusaders, who had lost four of their last five games to end the regular season.
“It’s been hard but it’s actually been beautiful for us because it kind of got the girls back in sync,” said V.C. head coach Dominic Freeman. “It left a sour taste the past couple of games, weeks for us and it re-motivated the girls. We had an outstanding practice week and it showed tonight.”
V.C. held a 13-7 advantage after the first quarter and was letting everyone know that it can be offensive in more ways than one. The Lady Crusaders pulled down 10 offensive rebounds of the 14 boards they grabbed in the opening stanza with seniors Cheyenne McKinnie and Sahana Oglesby each collecting three offensive rebounds. Oglesby continued to dominate the glass in the second quarter with three more boards on the offensive end as the Lady Crusaders went into the halftime break up 24-13. By halftime, McKinnie and sophomore Ariel Gordon each had six points while McKinnie had half a dozen rebounds and Oglesby eight rebounds.
“Honestly, we told them we have athletic and height advantage to us and we just wanted to attack the run and be aggressive,” Freeman said.
Staying with the offensive theme, sophomore Calla Anderson scored the first points of the second half off of one of her three offensive boards. Midway through the third quarter, Oglesby did the same, then freshman McKenna Bushong scored off a steal to make it 31-15.
V.C. would really put the game away with an 18-0 run that ended 61 seconds into the fourth quarter. In fact, when freshman Kira Smith scored almost two minutes into the fourth quarter, it ended a stretch in which the Lady Crusaders were 11 of 12 from the field. Anderson and Gordon each scored 12 points while McKinnie added 11 points, along with eight rebounds. Oglesby led everyone with 11 rebounds and as a team, V.C. had 40 boards. The Lady Crusaders also shot 46 percent from the field.
V.C. also knew it was in for a good game because La Quinta was pretty much a one-player team as Annie Truong scored half of her teams’ points, including all seven in the first quarter.
“We knew [Truong] was one of their better players,” Freeman said. “We just want to come out and play our game and just outwork and outplay them. Luckily for us we came out on the right end.”
The Lady Crusaders (20-7), who are the third ranked team in the division, hosted sixth ranked California High this past Wednesday and came away with a 50-40 victory to advance to Saturday night’s semifinals where they will face second ranked Oxford Academy. McKinnie poured in 26 points against the Condors.
V.C. is looking to get back to the divisional finals for the first time since 2010, the last time that the program won at least 20 games. But it will be put to the test with the Academy League champions, who are 21-5 and are led by 6’ 2” sophomore center Austyn Masuno, who is averaging 19 points a game and close to 13 rebounds a game.