BURBANK –– The Canyon High girls basketball team traveled south and squared off against Palisades High in a Burroughs Summer League game at John Burroughs High School on Tuesday.
From the opening tip it was clear what the Cowboys’ intentions were as they got the tip and quickly got the ball inside to their senior-to-be center Chidinma Okafor for the game’s opening points.
This was a constant trend throughout the first two quarters of play as the Cowboys built a big enough lead in the first half and hit clutch free throws down the stretch to quiet any ideas of a comeback, winning 43-38.
With Lucy Collins missing in action because she was out of town, fellow upcoming senior Riley LaPlant stepped in and provided length, size and sound interior passing on the opposite block from Okafor.
“Once we get them a little bit stronger, they are already a dominating force,” said Canyon head coach Jessica Haayer. “It’s tough to guard 6-foot-3 with really strong arms and you can throw anything up there and she will get it and she will find a way to finish it. Our inside game is going to be big, it’s going to be really big.”
Okafor finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, five blocks and a steal and LaPlant had two points, three rebounds and two assists.
Defensively, the Cowboys were stout playing tough on-ball defense, trapping and double-teaming every ball handler at a moment’s notice, forcing more than 10 turnovers in the game with five Cowboys recording at least one steal.
“We are learning some new stuff and our objective is to put pressure and fly around, and I thought we did that,” Haayer said. “We forced a lot of quick shots and a lot of off-balance and un-organized offense which is what we want so I thought they did a really nice job.”
At halftime, Canyon led 23-15.
Canyon opened the second half on fire, going on a 10-3 run to extend the lead to 33-18, forcing a Palisades timeout.
The Cowboys got strong guard play from senior-to-be point guard Jwamee Advincula and upcoming junior Miliani Garcia who play different styles, but have equally impressive ball handling skills.
“J (Advincula) played some last year and she’s picking it up pretty quick, same with Mili (Garcia),” Haayer said. “They are both very different so it depends on what you want to go with. It’s nice that we can even throw in Aaliyah Garcia in there at the No. 1 spot and maybe eventually Kiki (Taufaasau) in there too.
“It’s nice to have some versatility at the spot and to have some handlers that if one goes away we have another one. They are doing a good job, and they are learning and hopefully by the season they will be ready to go.”
Advincula finished with two assists, two rebounds, two steals and one point and Garcia had two points and three rebounds.
Slowly whittling away at the Cowboys’ lead, Palisades found itself down just five points with 1:07 left in the game.
Canyon quickly shut down the comeback, hitting 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to keep the lead and the game out of reach.
The Cowboys will continue at the Burroughs Summer League, playing Ventura at 5:30 p.m on Tuesday.