Canyon girls hoops ‘tired of coming up short’ against Valencia

Canyon's Angie Puno (5) celebrates the team's lead with just seconds left to go in the fourth quarter of their game against Valencia on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Canyon has taken a critical approach to its most crucial Foothill League girls basketball showdown today at Valencia.

Following a one-point loss Dec. 10 in the Magnolia Park Optimist Club tournament final at Burroughs and a 47-45 setback Jan. 17 on a last-second shot by Kayla Konrad, the Cowboys have turned reflective and analytical when it comes to the pursuit of their first league championship since 2014.

“It’s all about how hard are we going on each other and how much are we going to push each other in practice,” said Canyon coach Jessica Haayer, who has lost five in a row against Valencia since a 52-48 victory Jan. 23, 2015.

“It’s on us now to get it done. Whether it’s the last 20 minutes of practice or the fourth quarter of a game, it’s all about how zoned in are we going to be when we get a little fatigued.”

Canyon’s Rachel Bowers (44) goes up for a shot as Valencia’s Ashlee Ane (12) plays tight defense during a basketball game at Canyon on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. Katharine Lotze/Signal

Canyon (15-9 overall, 6-1 Foothill) overcame a two-point halftime deficit Tuesday to post a 59-51 victory over Hart (9-13, 4-3). The Cowboys had lost their previous seven games this season decided by eight points or less.

“After the last game (against Valencia), it really opened our eyes and I think we’ve grown a lot and we’re a lot closer as a team,” said Canyon junior Talia Taufaasau, who scored a season-high 22 points against Hart.

“Our struggle has always been mentally, especially at the end of games. Physically we’re good, but it’s all about how mentally tough we are. Since last time, we’ve definitely improved and practices have been much more intense. We’ve had to hold each other accountable.”

Valencia (20-4, 7-0) has won 23 straight Foothill games and is seeking a fifth consecutive championship, a feat previously accomplished by Hart and Canyon.

The Vikings are 4-1 this season in games decided by eight points or less and haven’t lost a league home game since a 52-45 setback to Canyon in 2013.

“In those late clock situations and those important points in the game, it comes down to how well we can handle ourselves,” Haayer said. “Our girls are hungry and they’re angry and they’re tired of coming up short. Physically we have all the pieces and mentally we understand what we have to do, but it all comes down to executing and having poise.”

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