For The Signal
Brooke Mitchell and Ellie Villavicencio might not have been significant points of emphasis in Valencia’s defensive game plan Tuesday, but the junior guards definitely made their collective presence felt on the perimeter in Canyon’s 58-33 girls basketball victory to take over sole possession of first place in the Foothill League.
Mitchell and Villavicencio combined to make 8 of 14 3-point field goals, contributing to a season-high 10 3-pointers for Canyon (19-4 overall, 5-0 Foothill League). They each finished with 12 points, sharing team-high honors with senior Selasi Mawugbe to help the Cowboys extend their league winning streak to 12 in a row.
“They kept leaving us open, thinking we wouldn’t be able to shoot or we weren’t much of a threat to them, but I think we showed them differently,” said Villavicencio, who hit 4 of 8 3-point attempts after entering the game connecting on just 9 of 45 shots from behind the arc.
“They’ll regret doing that again or they probably did regret doing that. After we hit our shots, it just boosted our confidence.”
Mitchell had made five 3-pointers Dec. 7 in a 73-36 victory over Norco and entered the game having hit 20 of 66 3-point attempts. She came off the bench to connect on 4 of 6 3-pointers to take over the team lead this season with 24.
“Going into the game, we were very ready. We were mentally prepared and physically prepared,” Mitchell said. “We had gone over what they run on defense and on offense and we went in knowing what to look for and I think that helped us out knowing what the shooters could do.”
Canyon’s shooting prowess was therapeutic in multiple ways. The Cowboys made only 1 of 12 3-pointers Friday in a 44-27 win over Saugus and had failed to hit a 3-point field goal three times in their previous seven games.
Canyon’s 10 of 21 effort behind the 3-point arc also helped exorcise the demons of a 50-45 loss to Valencia in the CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA final March 4, when the Cowboys missed on all nine 3-point attempts. In four meetings with the Vikings last season, Canyon made a total of 13 3-pointers.
“We’ve been waiting for this game for a while because of CIF and Valencia and we’ve always been rivals,” Villavicencio said. “We all came together so nicely. It was a total team effort and everyone contributed and we all played as one unit. It was a good win.”
Valencia (12-10, 4-1) held Canyon seniors Rachel Bowers and Talia Taufaasau to eight and seven points, respectively, both half of their season averages. But it didn’t matter, with the Cowboys connecting on their most 3-pointers since hitting 11 in last year’s 80-40 league victory over Golden Valley.
“It meant a lot. It was good because I realized they were trying so hard to prevent Rachel and Talia from scoring, so it gave me and Ellie an opportunity to show what we could do,” Mitchell said. “Since the people that don’t usually score got a lot of points on the board, it was good for us to show other teams we’re going to play in the future that everyone who plays can score and is a threat and it gives them something to worry about.”
Canyon’s 25-point triumph at Valencia was its biggest since a 62-32 victory on the Vikings’ home floor Feb. 9, 2010. It was Valencia’s largest setback at home since a 24-point loss Dec. 7, 2013 against Sierra Canyon.
In addition to gaining revenge for losing three of four matchups last season, Canyon also helped erase the frustration of a 40-point loss at Valencia in 2015 and a 27-point road setback in 2016.
“Like our coach says, it’s another rung on the ladder,” Villavicencio said. “We just keep going up from where we started. We just keep building and building until we’re getting to the top.”
Been waiting for a win
West Ranch snapped a nine-game league losing streak Tuesday with its 47-45 victory over Golden Valley (11-9, 0-5).
The last league win for the Wildcats (11-9, 1-4) came nearly a year to the day with a 46-43 triumph over Golden Valley. The Grizzlies avoided going winless in league last year with a 53-40 victory over the Wildcats in the regular-season finale and will likely have to do the same Feb. 9 when they play at West Ranch.
When Terra Palmer took over as Hart girls basketball coach in 2011, she lost her first four career matchups against rival Saugus. Since then, Palmer has won 10 in a row against the Centurions (16-5, 2-3), including a 50-42 victory Tuesday.
Hart (12-10, 3-2) is looking to finish in the top three in league for a fifth consecutive year under Palmer.