MISSION HILLS — The Canyon girls basketball team somberly walked across the Bishop Alemany gym after a 67-57 loss on Friday night. Families of players and the “Green Machine” student section followed.
One shocked student asked aloud: “What are we going to do on Tuesday nights now?”
It was a question that none of the Cowboys expected to be asking themselves ahead of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinal game.
“The last two seasons, we haven’t been able to succeed in the championship,” said senior Gabby Sanchez, “and we’ve had that in our mentality to come out and try to get to the championship and win it all this year, but some things don’t go as planned.”
An athletic Warriors team jumped out to a 14-10 lead by the end of the first quarter, but Canyon managed to tie it up 32-32 by halftime thanks to some gritty defensive play from Sanchez and Selasi Mawugbe.
“We wouldn’t have gotten this far without them,” said Talia Taufaasau. “Their tenacity on defense, their hunger for the ball just kind of … they’re what fueled the fire of our defense and our offense, everything.”
The Cowboys (26-5) closed the deficit to two points as the third frame came to a close. They tied the game once again at 44-44 with seven minutes and 39 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter on a Rachel Bowers layup, but Malia Bambrick countered with a basket of her own and Alemany (17-9) took back the lead.
Brooke Mitchell drained a deep 3-pointer with four minutes left to play to bring the score to 53-51, but that was all the closer that Canyon would get to a lead.
Rachel Bowers led the Cowboys with 16 points and Mitchell hit four treys. Mawugbe added 12 points and Taufaasau chipped in 11 points.
“There were tears and (I told them) just how much I appreciate them,” said coach Jessica Haayer of the post-game talk in the locker room.
“It’s not easy to have someone down their neck every day … and they did it. They did it when they were sick, they did it when they were tired, they did it when they had a ton of homework and holy cow, I mean, were they a fun group.”