Clark, Brandeis, O’Connor enjoying impressive starts in district race

By Pat Turner

Clark, Brandeis and O’Connor had impressive runs through non-district.

After the first week of District 28-6A, the three teams are still on the go after 2-0 starts.

Clark (14-1, 2-0) rolled past Jay, 87-33 in its opener, before topping Taft, 55-38.

Brandeis (12-1, 2-0) used its balance and inside power to get the advantage over   and Stevens, 47-35, and Marshall, 74-34, while O’Connor (12-4, 2-0) eased past Holmes (10-4, 0-2), 49-41, before soaring to a 68-40 win over Warren.

Now, the three try to keep on their current rolls. A big test comes Tuesday when Clark battles Brandeis.

“We’ve had a good start,” Clark coach Rihana Houy said. “We have amazing chemistry. The players get along incredibly well. The other piece to it is I don’t let up on them whether it’s practice or in a game. We play and coach the same, because they know the expectations.

“Every win brings more confidence. Every game we have some minor setbacks, but they have be resilient and strong.”

Clark showed that in both contests. The Cougars, however, had a tough time in the early going against Taft (7-8, 1-1), which was coming off a 75-41 victory over Marshall.
Relying on the shooting and rebounding of Myra Bell (21 points, nine rebounds), the Raiders stayed close in the first half as the Cougars had to scrap for a 29-23 halftime lead.

The Cougars, however, needed a stronger defensive showing in the second half to break away. Clark got what it needed by forcing turnovers and controlling the boards, while picking up tempo behind the combination of Ta’Niya Jackson (12 points), Rachel Lee (12 points), Jessie Paz Y Puente (nine points) Sydney Solitaire (six points) and Cassie Bell (six points) during the building of a 48-30 third-period lead.

From that point, Clark was in complete control.

“We had more defensive focus in the second half,” the Clark coach said. “We knew (Myra) Bell would create problems for us, because she is a phenomenal basketball player. We had to focus and really sacrifice bodies on the drives.”

Clark started delivering the good much quicker against Jay by cruising to a 48-13 halftime lead behind another balanced attack. Paz Y Puente let the Cougars with 19 points and Bell put in 17 while Jackson finished with 13.

Brandeis received a huge lift from Claire Hale in its two victories.

She scored 11 of her 15 points in the second period to push the Broncos past Stevens. Against Marshall, she delivered another strong outing in the second quarter by knocking in 12 of her 21 points.

“This is an amazing start,” Hale said. “I feel like we’re finishing stronger. We’re keeping our composure. We have good shooters and we can move the ball really well. It’s nice to know we can trust our teammates.”

Help also came from Alexis Parker-Guzman, who 11 points against Stevens and 10 in the win over Marshall, Kaia Herrera and Arriana Villa.

The Broncos had trouble against Stevens in the first quarter as Destiny Jenkins and Jade Mitchell’s scoring gave the Falcons an early 9-5 lead.

Brandeis came up with shots at the midway point from Hale, Villa and Taylor Medina to carve out a 14-12 lead.

In the second period, Hale got the Broncos charged up as the advantage increased to 26-21.

Brandeis maintained the five-point edge throughout the third period but found more comfort in the final quarter by limiting Taft to five points.

“We’re doing good things,” Brandeis coach Jennifer Brewer said. “We accomplished a lot in our non-district games. We grew a lot. I love the way this team shares the ball and plays together. We have a lot of good players on this team and everyone contributes.”

O’Connor had a tough time against Holmes as the Huskies held advantage in the first half.

The Panthers couldn’t get into a rhythm. The Huskies, on the other hand, were clicking as Ariana Martinez, who finished with 17 points, and Lanay Wheaton (10 points) propelled Holmes to a 23-17 halftime lead.

O’Connor showed more life in the second half, especially on defense.

Buckets by Carleigh Wenzel (12 points), Christina Adeniran (eight points) and Shannon Bowden (nine points) brought the Panthers within 27-25.

Following a Holmes turnover, Adeniran canned a 3-pointer, pushing O’Connor in front, 28-27. The Huskies regained the lead on Martinez’ jumper, but it was brief.

The Panthers tightened the defense and relied on the inside work of Nicole Hemphill (13 points, nine rebounds), who poured in seven points down the stretch for a 39-33 advantage.

O’Connor didn’t let up and finished strong.

“Holmes outworked us the whole game,” O’Connor coach Karmen Wilson said. “We feel fortunate we were able to win. We played better defense in the second half. We were more patient on offense. We were more consistent on the boards. I hope this is a good learning experience for us.”

O’Connor came out stronger against Warren as Hemphill, who finished with 21 points, and Wenzel (11 points) guided the Panthers to a 26-8 lead in the first period.

Brennan (9-6, 2-0) also enjoyed a quick start and defense was a big reason for the jumpstart during victories over Warren (56-,25) and Jay (64-37).

The Bears held Warren to single digits in each period while also getting steady offensive contributions from Carrington Jones, 14 points, five steals, Alai Fluker (13 points, six rebounds), Giana Steward (11 points) and Jalyn Carter, who grabbed 10 rebounds with eight points.

Brennan followed with a balanced showing against Marshall with Anyssa Anderson leading the Bears with 18 points.

Stevens rebounded from its loss by pulling out a 46-36 victory over Holmes.

Jenkins (18 points) and Jazmin Mitchell (14 points) sparked the Falcons. Giselle  Lopez-Chavez put in 17 points for Holmes.

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