December 7, 2012 Leave a comment
In perhaps the most physical game in this year’s Lady Highlanders Classic tournament, free throws made the difference as La Habra defeated Thousand Oaks 60-53 in the tournament’s championship game.
A key 9-0 run to start the fourth quarter gave the Lady Highlanders the lead for good and La Habra made 25-of-35 free throws to earn what Head Coach Jim Bohn believes is the team’s first championship in it’s home tournament.
“The free throws were huge, in the last couple of games our free throw shooting has been off,” said Jim Bohn, La Habra head coach. “Amy [Wilbourn] stepped up and made some huge free throws for us when we needed them and I know she was exhausted at the end, but I couldn’t be more proud of these seniors.”
Amy Wilbourn led all scorers with 25 points and her aggressiveness on offense led to a 14-of-21 night from the free throw line, with most of the missed shots coming toward the end of the fourth quarter as fatigue set in.
Allyson O’Brien provided the support with 21 points, 17 of which were scored in the second half. She hit 9-of-10 free throws.
Through the first three quarters, neither team gained a sizable advantage as Thousand Oaks held two point leads after the first quarter and at halftime and a one-point lead after the third quarter.
La Habra, which had already suffered one loss in a tournament championship game this season, came out with a flurry to start the fourth quarter and scored seven points off turnovers thanks to an intense full-court pressure.
“I knew they had gas in the tank coming out for the fourth quarter,” Bohn said. “So I told them if they win the first two minutes, we win the game. It could have gone either way, but they put their hands up on defense and got the job done.”
From then on, both teams were in foul trouble, but while La Habra started to fade at the free throw line, the Lady Lancers struggled from the floor, shooting just 3-of-13 in the fourth quarter. They also shot 0-of-6 from three-point range.
Jessica Sager led Thousand Oaks with 17 points, with eight points coming in the first quarter as she often found open looks on the baseline.
Wilbourn countered that scoring early on by driving to the basket. Though she made just one basket on those drives, she drained four free throws the help keep La Habra’s deficit at 15-13.
In the second quarter, both teams became more physical as the referees continued to let them play.
Through it all, Wilbourn put up five more points, while Sydney Perry scored six for Thousand Oaks on a three-pointer and on a three-point play as she was fouled on the shot.
The referees’ lack of calls in the first half led to more physical play in the third quarter.
However, the officials began to make calls and O’Brien benefited by making all six of her free throw attempts in the third quarter.
However, Sager was strong for the Lady Lancers with seven points, preserving a 42-41 lead heading into the final quarter.
After the 9-0 run, the Lady Highlanders defense picked up. As Thousand Oaks started to gain steam late in the fourth, Kaili Peko came up with a block on a three-point attempt by Hilary Chuh.
But fouls would continue late in the quarter as Sager and Carolyn Ruffino both fouled out for Thousand Oaks, while Cyrena Gonzalez hit five fouls for La Habra.
“This was good for us, because this is the type of game that we’re going to see against our rivals in league play,” Bohn said. “Thousand Oaks is a great team, they were able to move the ball around and they had a good scheme on Allyson defensively.”
La Habra’s struggles with defensive rebounding continued against Thousand Oaks, as the Lady Lancers came away with nine offensive rebounds.
Katherine Reaves grabbed 13 total rebounds for Thousand Oaks, four on the offensive side.
Bohn said he plans to focus on rebounding with the team while it prepares for it’s upcoming nonleague schedule.
“We’ve got a week now to get in the gym before our next game,” Bohn said. “We’re going to be doing a lot of rebounding drills, we’re giving teams way too many second chance opportunities.”
However, despite the rebounding struggles, La Habra’s scrappy play and continued front court pressure played pivotal roles in their championship run.
Three different players led the team in scoring during this week’s games, and others, like Peko, stepped up with tough defense, which Bohn believes is a sign of the depth on this year’s team.
“This is a confidence boost for us, I told them to remember what happened against Arcadia and they didn’t want to feel like that twice,” Bohn said. “They were able to draw from that and we had some unsung heroes step up. They learned from that experience and moving forward that has to be a big confidence builder.”