When it came time for the Canyon High girls basketball team to step up Wednesday, the Cowboys responded by shutting down visiting Sonora in the CIF Southern Section Division 1-AA quarterfinals.
When the opportunity arose for Canyon to secure back-to-back trips to the semifinals, the Cowboys locked up Raiders’ leading scorer Meghann Henderson.
And when Rachel Bowers needed to take over in the second half, the junior took control at both ends, contributing 16 points and 22 rebounds to lift Canyon to a 49-43 victory.
The Cowboys (20-9) will play Saturday against St. Anthony (17-13), a 64-62 overtime winner over top-seeded Redondo Union. The teams played Nov. 21 in their season opener at the Palisades tournament, with Canyon winning 51-36.
After picking up her third foul in the second quarter and finishing with only five first-half points, Bowers scored 10 points during a seven-minute stretch in the second half to help Canyon reach the semifinals for the third time in seven years.
“I was in my own head for a few minutes after I picked up the third foul, but in the second half, I finally got my rhythm going,” said Bowers, who helped the Cowboys win their in sixth in a row.
“Everyone believes in each other and we trust one another and that’s been a very big factor in our success. We’re a very close team.”
Canyon demonstrated its trust the most on defense, rallying from a 43-42 deficit by holding Sonora (21-8) scoreless the final 4:25.
The Raiders didn’t make a field goal in the fourth quarter, with their only five points coming at the free-throw line. After accounting for Sonora’s first 16 points in the opening 11 minutes, Henderson was held scoreless the rest of the way.
“We preach defense and we knew that was going to make the difference,” said Canyon coach Jessica Haayer, who led the Cowboys to the Division 2-AA final last year.
“That’s beautiful to hear what we did (in the fourth quarter). After (Henderson) scored the first 16, my girls took that challenge on to make sure she didn’t beat us.”
Daisy Cardenas scored all 14 of her points in the first half for Canyon, with Talia Taufaasau adding seven points and Gabby Sanchez contributing six points and six rebounds. Sanchez was instrumental in containing Henderson the final 21 minutes.
“We focused on our defense and we executed it. We couldn’t allow them to penetrate,” said Sanchez. “We had to turn things around and make our situation better and it started with our defense.”